The Austrian trip
It's not what you thinkhonest!
The Dog Incident
The Great Train Robbery
Our Men In Havana
A Mexican Standoff
The Wakefield Beehive Story
The Blackpool Train Story
The Bus Trip From Hell
Assault With a Friendly Weapon!
The China Man Story
The Railway Cat
The Bronx Taxi Driver
The Lady and the Champ
The Kerry Man
The New York Mugging
Flying up to Rio
The Four Feathers
B.C or A.D
We were off to Oktober Fest in Munich, Germany but were staying in Austria. Gary, Jack, Colin and Dave were there. We took loads of duty free booze and were looking forward to a good time. There was a large party of guys in our hotel from Dodworth and from day one there was a drinking competition.
Dave and Colin slept after the first day and stayed in their bedroom for the rest of the week. The first session had ended their holiday and they refused to come out of their room until the bus came to take them home! Jack lasted another three days but had to be in bed by ten each night. Gary was able to go throughout the week until the early hours of the morning. It was Gary who on his own had to admit defeat, constantly trying to wake Jack to give him some moral support.
It was on the fourth night of this holiday that everyone in the hotel agreed to have a party in our room, everyone was to bring the duty free where it could all be drunk before we went home. At the end of the evening two of the Dodworth lads were getting a bit loud. We were a bit pissed and ready for bed. Everyone went back to their rooms, but the two lads came back in their underpants, They wanted to beat us on this nights drinking binge. We said okay and drank some more.
We were dying to get some sleep so we suggested to the two guys they checkout our balcony, which had beautiful views of the mountain tops in the moonlight. Although the temperatures were below freezing, a short visit would not do them any harm.
As soon as they got onto the balcony we locked the patio door. This was to give us a few minutes peace. But about one hour later there was a loud knocking on our door. It was the hotel manager. Everyone in the village was reporting screams of help coming from our balcony.
The hotel manager wanted to know what was going on and went to investigate. It was then that we realised these two guys were stood in minus 10°C in their underpants and were collapsing with icicles hanging from their dangly bits down to the floor.
The manager opened the patio door and the guys were let back in to the warmth of our room. Their parting words to us on leaving our room were: "You two are Dead Meat" and they would deal with us after they had been to hospital to sort out their hypothermia.
THEY NEVER DID GET BACK TO US ON THAT ONE!
Whilst reading a meter in Monk Bretton Gary noticed the cellar was slightly flooded by nearly an inch or two of water. This didn't stop him boldly going where no meter reader has gone before.
What he didn't realise but was about to find out was that in the centre of the cellar floor was an 18ft deep well. Gary fell down the flooded well and his outstretched arms just managed to save him from going under. He managed to scramble out and looked like a swamp monster.
The lady of the house, hearing all the commotion, helped pull him out. She apologised profusely saying that she had told the husband that it wasn't safe for anyone to go in the cellar.
Meanwhile Gary, looking like a creature from the black lagoon, was urged to get in the bath and throw his dirty clothes out for her to wash and dry. She said her husband's dressing gown was behind the bathroom door, and when he was ready he should come out in the dressing gown and she would make a hot drink for him.
He came out, sat on the settee at the side of her and was just having a sip of tea when her husband came in. To which Gary replied "It's not what you think honest!".
Yet again had Gary found himself in a situation which needed some explanation!
When Gary came to work on the railway he was delighted that his signal box was in Dodworth. It was near to home and several of his favourite pubs. The only drawback was that it had barriers; the up and down type, not the old fashioned swing ones. He soon got used to the job and settled in very well apart from the trains, that is, that kept interrupting him from reading his book!
He also got to know one or two of the locals...
One chap in particular, a retired old gentleman, would every tea time stop and talk to Gary and watch the barriers come down for the 5pm train. You could put your watch right by him. He used to bring his dog, a little Yorkshire terrier, for a walk and while the train passed he always tied the dog to the barrier. The man would chat to Gary until the train had passed and then he normally went on his way.
One day the two of them were so engrossed in their conversation that neither of them realised that the dog lead was still attached to the barrier. When the train had passed the barrier was raised and It was only when the dog let out a panicking yelp that the two of them realised anything was amiss. They looked in the direction of the yelping, which should have been coming from ground level, but the dog was 20ft in the sky and hanging by its lead. The traffic was immediately brought to a halt and the barrier lowered. The dog was shaken but not stirred by his high flying adventure, but you can bet was sure glad to be back on terra firma.
THE MORE FIRMER THE LESS TERROR!
Gary obviously has a thing about railways. Not all of his railway exploits, however, have been completely on the right side of the law, as the following story will demonstrate.
Billy "Butch"Cairns so named after his fondness of wearing women's clothes and his hero worship of Butch Cassidy moved to the States 23 years ago: "A land of free expression and trains".
The States was the only place to go to after his dismal attempt to rob the Elsecar Flyer with his old buddy Sundance Horsfield. The idea was to jump on the guard's van, order the guard to stop the train and release the coal from all the wagons. It all went well until the rather angry guard pointed out "We are on our way TO the mine to fill the wagons with bloody coal. Now get of this train you drunken idiots".
So it was a rather sheepish Butch who leapt off the train swearing Sundance to secrecy, neither to tell his mother or the rest of the Toad in the Hole gang.
The Chairman decided that the only place for Paul to celebrate his 50th birthday was in Havana, Cuba. It had always been a dream of his to visit the Hotel Nacional the place where Sinatra allegedly delivered a suitcase full of money to the Mafia and stay at the Inglaterra Hotel, made famous by the writer Graham Greene... And if this wasn't his dream, the other guys convinced him it was now.
They decided to live the Hemingway life for the week. (Rise at the crack of noon; write a chapter of the latest book; then drink "Daiquiris" in the Floridita in the afternoon, and "Mojitos in the Bodeguita's at night.) Hemingway would have been proud; although the guys passed on the writing part unless you count the 14 post cards Neil sent home to his girlfriend (now wife).
The highlight of the holiday was Paul's birthday night when the guys did what they do worst... Sing. A salsa version of the Glen Campbell hit "Wichita Lineman" was electrifying.... Well it certainly shocked the audience! This was followed by a samba style rendition of "Strangers in the Night" which had the crowd shouting "No more!!". Perhaps it was too much of a good thing for the Cuban music lovers? The crowd, obviously too shy to ask for one more song, were treated to what we now believe has become a Cuban classic... "Mony Mony". This left the Cuban people speechless.
The Fat Pack left the hotel with words like "Unbelievable!" and "Never heard anything like it before!" ringing in their ears. Most of the locals were simply too emotional to even speak.... It was a night they would always remember!!
So it was with a heavy heart that the boys left Havana and, strangely, were charged $20 to do so at the airport... (Normally people pay them to leave!). Even stranger, Jack and John were charged $50. The Cubans must have really loved their singing!!
But fear not Cuban music lovers, Jack and John plan to return one day and repay you by opening a bar. It will be a first an Irish/Cuban bar... To be named: "O'SHEA GUEVARA'S".
The Cuban's are gonna love it!!
The night started in Tequila Red's, a small bar on the outskirts of Vegas. The bar was named after it's owner, although it really should now be called Tequila Bald's... Red's hair had disappeared years ago; but hey, this was a guy who had been in Vegas 60 years and had been a drinking buddy of Bugsy Siegal. He was a tough old bird, and if Red said he still had red hair the guys were in full agreement.
Now Red was saying "The only bar doing karaoke tonight is the El Matador, but it's a couple of miles out in the desert and its a Mexican bar, and those guys will eat you alive. So take my advice and say here with old Red"
Now this is the worst thing you could ever say to our Chairman. "We gotta go boys... It will be an adventure". Our hearts sank. Well after a vote 3 to 1 against Gary it was decided. We were going to the El Matador. (Gary's vote counts as 3 and he has the casting vote!) Red booked us a cab and said "It was nice knowing you, just in case I don't see you again.".... Gulp!!!
"El Matador on death alley. Are you guys sure?" said the cab driver. "Yes" said a confident Gary . "We are all members". After about 20 minutes the cab driver stopped and pointed to a dimly lit building in the distance. "This is as near as I am going boys. Good luck" he said, and off he sped into the night.
After a short walk the boys found themselves at the back of a queue; a queue that comprised of about 30 Mexicans and 4 guys in suits. It became apparent as they got nearer the door that the doormen were searching the Mexicans for weapons. The doormen looked at the 4 Englishmen in suits in amazement, "Any weapons?...". To which Gary replied "I wasn't aware it was compulsory." Jack quickly added "No, but could you give us some please!"............"Dressed like that, you sure are gonna need some gringo." snarled the doorman.
The dimly lit bar was packed and all eyes were focused on the boys. It was looking impossible to get a drink, until Gary flashed his rail card at everybody and shouted "IMMIGRATION, IMMIGRATION OFFICERS. LET US THROUGH." The bar area emptied in 3 seconds flat! After nervously explaining to the barman it was only a joke and they had only come so they could get up and sing, they were ordered to sit at the corner table, not to move or look at anyone and "Juanita will come over to your table and take your drinks order."... "Probably only got one tooth." whispered Jack.
After what felt like an eternity a very attractive Juanita (with beautiful teeth, by the way) served the guys with a triple tequila and two Budweisers each "I am going to need these if we are going to get up and sing" said a high pitched, squeaky voiced Paul... "and what are we going to sing?"......."How about "Speedy Gonzales, you have the perfect voice for it" cracked John, "but first, lets have some more drinks....".
"You have heard of the Gypsy Kings. Well tonight all the way from England we have the Gypsy Queens!!" was the boys' introduction. It was decided that the Beatles "I Saw Her Standing There" would be the opening song, followed by Paul singing "Behind Closed Doors", one of his though no one else's favourites......
All went well until the line in the song "My heart went boom, when she crossed that room" and all the guys simultaneously pointed to "Juanita" who was walking across the floor with a tray of drinks. "No gringo pig points at my seester" screamed her outraged Mexican brother....."Remember the Alamo?" replied a somewhat drunken John. The boys bolted for the side door, whilst members of the Mexican families were now fighting amongst themselves........with the final words of "Hasta la Vista, we won't be back" the boys stumbled into the open air and hot footed it back to the safety of Tequila Reds...
...One hour later, back at Reds.
"And I never thought I would see you guys again" chuckled Red. "And you say you were singing a Beatle's song at the time.....well I think I am going to have to christen you guys: JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE, and GRINGO......."
Now lets have another tequila Sheila, and Paul...why don't you sing.."Shut that door".
It was in his twenties that Gary went to work on the Railway as a signalman. In fact he was at Worsborough Dale near to the Ship Pub. In the next box was a man that was to turn out to be Gary's best friend for a long time. John McNiffe.
John's weak looking appearance did not seem to scare anyone, but this was found to be very deceptive. It was on a night out to Wakefield with Jack, Mick Ward, and Gary that we were to find out how hard he really was.
It was after a full days drinking in the town that we decided to head off to Wakefield and finish our night in the Bee Hive. This proved to be a big mistake. It was the thug capital of the North and these four guys from Wombwell had walked right in to their headquarters.
Now although everyone seemed sensibly dressed, Jack insisted on wearing these purple loons, complete with jester, Battenberg top. Trousers fastened up with white soap cord and hair like Looby Lou that didn't go down well in this disco lighting. As you can imagine we all had dandruff so we really stood out.
The locals didn't like our pulling power so gave us a hard time, chasing us down the street in the direction of Barnsley. (Which was handy as it would save us a cab fare.)
Well all did not go as planned. Mick and Jack were in front by a mile. John and Gary behind with the gang closing fast. John lost one of the only pairs of shoes he had. Now a quick calculation by John made him think: "Do I go back for the shoes and get a beating, or do I keep running and walk home in my socks?"
He decided to go for the beating and get his shoes back. Gary gulped but realised he could not let his mate go back on his own to face the music. Gary looked for support from Mick and Jack but by then they were at Stairfoot traffic lights. It was then that Gary realised John was a harder man than he ever realised because he was able to block every single one of the gang's punches with his face.
It was only when the gang's knuckles were cut up so badly because of the continuous pounding John's face had given them all that they gave up. But John's defiance did not end there. The gang was about twenty yards away heading back to their pints when John, who had survived, and also got his shoe back, was overjoyed because these thugs had missed his prize possessions. He shouted out: "Na Na Na Na Na Na you have missed my goolies". The guys turned back and a quiet thud was heard...
...John was silent!
On the train to Blackpool one day were Jack, Gary, Mick and John. It was on the Manchester stretch that John was to reveal his musical talents. He got out his harmonica and began to play the Camp Town Race Track song. It was just the thing to brighten up this boring train ride and was not too long before all the passengers joined in with the singing.
became apparent after John's tenth time of this same tune that it
was the only song he knew. (Do you still know that song John?) We
attempted to throw him out of the train window by opening the window
beyond those dreaded lines and pushing him out up to his waist.
The passengers reported this to the train guard who told us these
antics had to stop or we would be off the train. Jack made peace
with the guard and offered him a cigarette. The guard
It took about one minute for the guard to return and throw us off at Preston, his face was black, and his hair was singed. The cigarette had exploded in his face.
One day, whilst reading the meters in Havercroft, Gary realised he had to read the meters at a pub that had two particularly nasty Alsation dogs.
As he approached the pub up the long drive, to his horror he saw that the dray men had left the gates to the pub open, and coming towards him were the two biggest, nastiest, crocodile teethed Alsations you have ever seen... Both snarling and slavering with remnants of the previous meter reader's clothes still stuck in their teeth.
Gary immediately set off running faster than Linford Christie, but the gap was closing fast. They had almost caught him, beginning to slobber at Gary's juicy arse, arguing between themselves who was to display his badge on their kennel, when a bus driver, realising Gary's predicament, started driving his bus along side of Gary.
He opened the doors and beckoned Gary to get on to his bus to where it was safe. Gary dove at full stretch and was able to get onto the bus but was out of breath, only just managing to thank the driver for saving his life. Before Gary had got his breath back, two inhalers later, and could then talk to the driver, he was four miles from the next house on his round.
He spent the next hour and half walking back in the direction of the hounds of the Baskervilles.
Whilst reading a meter in a house in Kexborough, Gary thought the chap who's house he was in was being very friendly by offering him a cup of tea. He thanked him for the drink and said he had better get on and finish his round. The chap asked Gary if he would like to see his extension, Gary, who was busy reading the meter, didn't want to appear impolite so he said okay.
But when he turned around, the extension the chap had in his hands had nothing to do with a conservatory and looked more and more angry by the second. The chap then began chasing Gary around the sofa. It was at this point that Gary realised he was actually running faster than he did from the Baskerville hounds.
Eventually Gary managed to escape out of the back door. Gary thought he had better report the matter as an assault back at the YEB headquarters.
The boss told Gary to fill in the assaulted staff complaint form. In the part where it said was a weapon used, Gary put in blocked capitals that he was "ASSAULTED WITH A FRIENDLY WEAPON" The form then asked to describe the type of weapon that was used. Gary replied it had only one eye, was long, big, phallic, and purple.
Gary had some moon boots, one called the Bismarck and one called the Ark Royal, and they were famous to Customers who knew Gary on his meter round. They would always ask for the polite young man who wore the pink moon boots. No amount of ribbing from his work mates could stop him wearing anything but these bright pink boots on a cold January day.
It was during these winter months that he was requested to read a meter at a local Chinese takeaway. The takeaway only opened in the evenings so consequently never got its meter read.
But one morning Gary was passing the takeaway when the owner by chance happened to come out of the shop. It was in his best English that he demanded Gary read the meter. The estimated bills were way too high and he wanted it sorting out straight away. Gary being very accommodating said "Okay" and went into the shop cellar to read the meter.
He noticed the cellar was 1ft deep in water and refused to go through this to read it especially after the last cellar with water! The China man, desperate to get his meter read, volunteered to carry Gary (complete with the pink Bismarck and Ark Royal boots) on his back across the water to read the meter. But China men who are small and moonboots that are big don't go together!
Choose how high the China man lifted Gary it was never going to be high enough to clear these great depths and so the cellar was dry on Gary's departure. The thought of Gary on a China man's back with his pink moon boots sticking out in front gave hilarious comments back at YEB headquarters for the next 12 months.
It was one hot summer's day. Just the kind of weather that people with asthma love. Gary was enjoying a quite afternoon in his 5' x 4' signal box dreaming of how lucky he had been throughout his life with all the scrapes and stuff. Just then a woman appeared knocking at his signal box door vigorously.
There seemed some kind of urgency to her knocking. He opened the door and listened to her anxious tale. She had told Gary that her cat often went across the railway line, but had not returned from the previous night. She said she thought a train might have knocked it down, and could she check to see if she could find it. Gary said no she was not allowed, but he would check later. The lady agreed to this and would phone later to check on his findings.
An hour later Gary went on his search for the cat and didn't go too far before finding it chopped in half mid pounce across one of the lines looking like two halves of a hearthrug. He removed them from the track by throwing the two halves as far as he could away from the track. One hour had passed when the woman called on the phone to ask of his search. It was then that Gary had to break the sad news.
She was upset but very pleased Gary had made the effort. She asked if she could call round to collect it so that she could bury it in her garden. Gary, quick thinking as ever, said it was already buried complete with a cross on top of the grave. The woman was very pleased he had done this but wanted to see the grave so could he fix it for her. He agreed, but suggested she come to the box in an hour to see it when things were quieter. Yes she said.
Gary set off in search of the two halves of cat but could only find one half of it. He dug the hole, buried the half of cat and even put a cross on the top. This day was turning into one that he would love to come to an end. The woman came back at the appointed time.
Gary took her to the grave and she thanked him for his efforts with a box of chocolates. But she would feel better if he dug it up so that she could give it a proper burial in her garden. He couldn't give her half a cat so sent her on her way as a train would soon be coming and promised he would do it later.
He searched high and low for the other half of the cat and eventually spotted it up a big hawthorne tree. He set off breathing heavier and heavier, getting scratched from the spiky branches, but did manage to retrieve the other half of the cat. It was only then after throwing a bit of soil on the clean half of cat and digging up the buried half that he was then able to give the woman both halves.
Gary was in a shocking state for the rest of the day and was glad to get home for a rest. It was when he got home that Cathy said to Gary that the garden wanted digging. This was not a good time to ask that!
"Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling".... Thanksgiving day, Pippins Bar, Rush St, Chicago. The boys are singing "That's Amore" Jacks favourite Dean Martin song for the 14th time!! "Hey guys! Why don't you take your act down to Blue Chicago?" shouted the music loving barkeeper. "There is nothing like a good old sing-a-long....and you guys are nothing like one."
So the boys left Pippins and headed down town Chicago... "Oh, by the way boys, watch out for muggers and other undesireable's. Wouldn't want anything to happen to youse guys." shouted the straight faced barkeeper. "Fear not. We are coming back to share some of your Thanksgiving turkey." replied Alan Hope (official photographer for the Chicago trip)... "Missing you already" shot back the barkeeper.
The deeper they got downtown the more they resembled spots on a domino, and over on the street corner stood a menacing group of black guys..."Hey one of you guys spare a dollar?" "Have nothing less than a twenty." Paul replied. "Thats okay, we can break that." came the surprising reply. "Yes and I will break your bloody necks." shouted a high pitched, nervous Paul. Another of the gang told Neil, that for a dollar he would tell him a story. Gary intervened by saying "I will tell you one, for free, and it only consists of two words!!... something to do with sex and travel........."
Finally they arrived, shaken but not stirred, at 'Blue Chicago'. They paid their entrance fee and were greeted by a 20 stone black guy called Lorenzo. Apart from directing you to your table for the night, Lorenzo also sold photographs of himself. "So lets see, table for six and six photo's, that will be $12"...."Could you autograph mine" whispered Neil. "Sure that will be another dollar." Hopefully the guys had made a friend!!!!
The band playing that night was The George Baze Blues Band featuring Liz Mandville Greeson. The band very graciously posed for photograghs with the boys during the interval and gave John a signed copy of their latest CD. Well, by the end of the night the joint was jumping. All the guys were up on stage side singing along. Jack was even showing off his moonwalk... (well its a drunkwalk, actually) John asked a young oriental lady to dance, who upon seeing a guy at least 40years older than herself accepted, and was no doubt expecting a slow shuffle round. But John can really move on the dance floor and was quickly showing the girl how to really jive. The drummer started a 5 min solo and John started to do the "Kellyleg". The girl was now struggling to keep up as a circle formed around them. People were cheering and clapping and someone shouted out "He sure moves good for a whiteguy". The band and John came to a climax at the same time! A great night was over.
The crowd was still clapping when Lorenzo murmered something to Gary. "You tell him" replied Gary... Lorenzo put his arms around John and above the noise whispered something in his ear... "Right, lets be off" said a worried looking John. Two minutes later the guys were outside, heading back to Pippins.
"You seemed anxious to get out of there quick." "So would you be if you had heard what Lorenzo said to me!" replied John. "John he only said that you were cooking tonight.".... "Just mean't you were hot on the dance floor." explained Gary. "Oh my god! I thought he said I wanted F***ing tonight! And I told him that the only thing getting stuffed this Thanksgiving day is your turkey!!!!!!
Right then; its back to Pippins and lets see if anyone saved us any turkey.
On a trip to New York Brent, Paul and Gary decided to visit the South Bronx. At the time this area had a very bad name with the Manhattan taxi drivers. The famous, go anywhere Yellow cabs had stopped working the Bronx area due to one ore two of them being shot in the back of their heads and their money stolen. So it had to be the subway or walk. The subway it was.
Going down into the depths of the earth to get on the train were three of the Fat Packers looking like three spots on a Domino amongst all the Black Passengers.
They eventually got off at the wrong stop, and were advised by a friendly black cop that the best thing they could do was get out of the subway as quick as possible and get a cab away from this area. The best way was to look out for one of the Independent unmarked cabs that could only be recognised by the identification sticker in the front windscreen. If they went across from the Subway they would be parked there. This was recommended as the only safe way of getting out of this area as fast as they could.
They all ran up the steps of the subway as fast as they could. Across from the station Paul spotted a car with the sticker in its front window. All three dove into the car and said to the driver in the panicky, squeaky voice they all have when in a panic and uttered the word's "Get us outa here as fast as you can!" The driver spun around and said get the f*** out of my car you Honkey's. The car was quickly surrounded by 6 Black youths.
It was only then that the 3 guys realised that the driver was not a cab driver. The sticker on his windscreen was an invalid badge and the driver only had one leg. It was only then that Brent and Gary realised that 6 foot 7inch tall Paul had a stammer along with a newly acquired wimpering voice as he talked his way out of this mess. The Black youths loaned Paul a hanky told him to dry his eyes and wipe his arse and get on their way.
"LUCKY ESCAPE OR WHAT"
"Cheap and cheerful, that's what we agreed on." argued Paul. "Yes, but we are in the middle of bloody Hell's Kitchen!" snapped Gary. So it was that the Fat Pack found themselves in a sleazy hotel, used by the police for people under the witness protection act, in downtown New York a place better known as Hell's Kitchen.
Paul had certainly got them a cheap deal, and if your idea of a holiday is to stay in a hotel full of cops, pimps and hustlers on a street packed with gay and S&M bars, then this was the holiday for you. The boys arrived at the right time. The street was in the middle of gang warfare. Two rival groups of transvestites were doing battle to decide who worked the area. (This actually made the newspapers and was known as the 'Leather Boys War'...I kid you not.)
The holiday, by the Fat Pack standards, was a classic; from finding themselves in a Mexican bar on St Patrick's day; climbing into a disabled car in the Bronx thinking it was a cab; Gary getting a lesson in life from a pimp for speaking to his woman and Paul having his pocket picked by a hooker.... It certainly was a memorable one. But the incident that made the most impression was a chance meeting in a sleazy bar called "Cats".
It was the first day of the holiday, and after getting over the shock of the location and clientele of the hotel, the boys decided to go straight for a drink. Gary was ready first and told the guys that he would meet them in the bar adjoining the hotel, a bar named Cats. The hotel bar looked pretty dismal but Gary always says you meet real people in bars. (Something that would turn out to be true!)
At first Gary thought the wallpaper was pictures of men playing leapfrog. Closer inspection proved otherwise! The man in drag behind the bar; the guys in leather and the person in a thong doing a dance on the bar kinda gave it away...... He was in a gay S&M bar which explained why all the clientele looked like members of the "Village People". The barman greeted Gary with the words "Hi stranger, would you like a cocktail?"... "No, a whiskey will be a fine." replied a somewhat nervy Gary. "Let me guess, you like it straight up." winked the barman. A guy came over and said "Hi lonesome, fancy a game of pool?" "No thanks, but my friend 'Paulie' will be here any minute and he will play with you." replied a straight faced Gary; thinking to himself 'I wish the guys would hurry up....'
Brent was the first in, followed by Paul. It was decided that it was a quick whiskey and straight out to meet the rest of the boys. But at that moment a tough looking black guy decided to join them. The man wore a leather jacket with the initials E.G. and boxing gloves emblazoned on the arms. "Don't I know you guys?" he asked quietly. All three answered "No" at the same time! "In fact, this is our first time in New York." squeaked a high pitched Paul. At that very moment the guy from the pool table shouted out "Paulie! It's your turn on the table... C'mon big guy. Don't be shy." "It must be some mistake, honestly. I have never been here before." mumbled an embarrassed Paul. "Hey, you don't have to explain to me." came the softly spoken reply. Then all of a sudden it hit Gary. 'The boxing gloves'; 'the initials EG'... He turned around and said "Guys, raise your glasses to the ex undisputed world boxing champion: EMILE GRIFFITH."
Giffith was a three times welterweight and twice middle weight world
boxing champion, and in his day he fought the best: Carlos Monzon,
Jos'e Napoles, Dick Tiger, Nino Benvenuti and our own Alan Minter.
But the fight he will always be remembered for was the contest for
the World Welterweight Championship in 1962.
"Give the boys a drink." "Sure thing Champ" replied the bartender. Gary told him that he had a video of him boxing for the world title. "Which one? I had 24 title fights." "Your last fight against Benny Paret." Gary's voice trailed off, suddenly realising which fight that was. There was an awkward silence, broken by a voice from the pool table "Hey Paulie, you big stud muffin are you gonna bend your cute tush over this table and shoot pool or what ?" A red faced, falsetto voiced Paul once again said "Honest it's our first time in here" but at the same time giving a suspicious look towards Gary. Gary felt kinda sad that a boxing hero of his calibre had obviously been reduce to working in a dive like this - unless, perhaps, he owned it?
The ex champ turned out to be very affable. He laughed at the guys jokes, such as Gary saying "Let me get the next round Mr Griffith. Then I can tell people I've done two rounds with Emile Griffith." They joked about Paul being an ex boxer (not true) and Gary said they called him "Rembrandt Wilkinson" because he spent so much time on the canvas. Brent said that Paul was the only boxer he knew who had a cauliflower backside, and he had been down that many times they had sewn handles to his shorts. Emile laughed as though it was the first time he had ever heard any of these jokes. The boys relaxed and started to enjoy their afternoon.
It was the man's shadow they saw first. He must have stood 6ft 8inches tall. Emile introduced him as Mr Black, and boy was he black! The intense Mr Black nodded to the boys, but made it very obvious he was having no part of the conversation. After about 5mins of silence (Boy, could this guy kill a conversation!) Mr Black spoke. "I'm gonna put the Champs favourite record on." and away he went to the jukebox. "Don't mind him. He is always the same around strangers - especially white strangers." said an embarrassed looking Emile.
The guys figured out that the champ's favourite song would be "Eye of the Tiger", the theme tune from the film 'Rocky'. This was going to be great. They were going to shadow box and pretend to spar with a real champ. Not too sure about Mr Black, though.
To this very day the boys, especially Gary, squirm when they hear Whitney Houston...
With the words "And I will always love youuuu" soaring out across the room Mr Black affectionately placed his arms around the champ and said. "This is our record ain't it champ?" Emile nodded and smiled sweetly back. For what felt like an eternity the boys stood speechless, afraid to smile or even look at each other just in case their actions were taken the wrong way. Paul even contemplated having that game of pool! It all became clear now, Emile neither owned or worked at the bar. It was just a place where he hung out with his friend... And Mr black was just feeling a little bit insecure when he saw Emile laughing and joking with strangers.
was time to leave. Emile came outside and posed with he boys for
some photo's, which a reluctant Mr Black was talked into taking.
Emile gave Gary his old State
Two days later the guys heard that the champ had been badly injured in a Bronx street mugging. It saddened the guys. They liked the champ and they had found him to be a modest, quite friendly type of guy. Well maybe he ain't the 'King of the Ring' anymore, but the he sure is the 'Queen of the Ring' ... The joke fell flat. They liked the Champ and hoped he would make a speedy recovery. A silence hung in the air. Gary was the first to speak. "Right then Paulie you old STUD MUFFIN. Fancy a game of pool?"
"Bloody stud muffin! I knew it was you that set me up." cried out a somewhat irate Paul. All the guys collapsed into laughter Even the STUD MUFFIN............
"Thank you very much." said a delighted Paul, and with a spring in his step carried the tray of drinks back to the corner table in 'Toners bar', Dublin. The boys were over for St Patrick's day and Paul had been trying out his 'Oirish' accent on the poor unfortunate locals. The results so far had been less than successful... Although one drunk did say he sounded like the boxer, Barry McGuigan.
"Told you I was brilliant at accents." said a high pitched excitable Paul. "He really thought I was Irish. He actually said "And what part of Ireland are you from son?" "I had to tell him No. I really am an Englishman." Paul's voice was getting higher by the second and he was actually sounding like Barry McGuigan. "Then the old guy said "Honest? Well son; you sure had me fooled. I thought you was a Kerry man." Paul sat back and with a grin from ear to ear, picked up his pint of Guinness.
Due to Paul's involvement in local amateur dramatics he had always seen himself has the man of a thousand voices. Unfortunately they all sounded the same! It didn't matter where he went he always had to try and speak like the locals. In London it was "Wotcha mate" and "Gor blimey guv". In Newcastle it was "Howay pet. Let's go doon toon". Scotland was "C U Jimmy" and Liverpool was "Fab! Wack. Gear!" - which hadn't been heard since the sixties. Apart from sounding nothing like them, this tended to annoy the locals who wrongly assumed he was making fun of them. Once in a Liverpool bar called Spencer's he was attacked by a football fan who thought he was taking the piss out of Alan Ball.
obsession with accents even stretched has far as abroad. Once in
France he ordered, in his best French accent, six cold beers. The
waiter came back with six ice creams; which caused Jack to remark
"We are not going to get very drunk on these." Another
time, in a really sleazy bar in Poland, he asked for a bowl of goulash,
only to find himself around the back of the bar with his trousers
round his ankles saying to a Polish prostitute "I never said
balls or goolies. I just asked for a bowl of goulash!!"
Gary took the drinks back to the table and repeated the barman's story. "What!! I will kill the old guy." screeched Paul. "See. I said he sounds like Barry McGuigan" shouted the amused barman. "Get him to say something else. He really is good."
After about 5 minutes, when Paul had finally calmed down, Brent asked him "When the old guy said you sounded like a Kerry man, what did you say?" It was a sheepish Paul who replied "Thank you very much." "Well, it could have been worse. You could have asked him for a bowl of goulash!" replied Neil.
then, Mr McGuigan. I think it's your round."
In New York, whilst going down to Harlem, Brent, Gary and Paul were walking in an area that was getting more desolate every 100 yards. About two miles into this area there were still looking for a bar, but because everything was boarded up, they were difficult to find.
They went to ask the only guy they could see for directions a black guy. He turned out to be a mugger and had a gun pointed at the three guys. Gary said to the guy that he could have all their money on condition they have a photograph taken whilst he was mugging them. They had never been mugged before and needed a picture to show their friends back home.
The black guy was astounded by this request from these mad English men. His mouth dropped open in amazement and in a flash the photo was taken, just as Gary was handing over the contents of his pockets.
He still has got this photograph to this day.
White tuxedos and dark glasses the boy's were looking good when they walked out of the elevator into the Gold Coast casino. That is apart from John, who walked straight into a slot machine. "Bloody stupid idea wearing these dark glasses!" said an irate John, trying to stop the blood from going all down his tuxedo lapel.
Twenty minutes later, John was the proud owner of a white tuxedo with one pink lapel! Neil's idea to sponge the lapel with claret had not been a success, but the bottle of claret had a very calming effect on a now somewhat tipsy John. "I could have sworn that claret was the finest thing going for removing stains." said a sheepish Neil.
So it was, with a band aid on his chin and a pink lapel to his tux, that John and the rest of the guys headed for a waiting limousine. It was at this moment that a drunken voice from the bar shouted over "Hey! Before all you waiters take the rest of the night off, any chance of fixing me and my buddies a sandwich?" "I knew we should have worn our black tuxes." growled Jack.
The boys were heading to the Sahara to watch a golden oldies show, featuring The Coasters, The Drifters, The Platters and The Chi-Lites... A musical extravaganza well thats how it was advertised. The night previous they had been to The Golden Nugget to watch Ray Charles and that had been a great night; so they were hoping that lightning would strike twice.
The limo pulled up at the Sahara and one by one the guys got out with the orders of the Chairman ringing in their ears. "Right guys, shades on and try to look cool and not like waiters. And John; try not to walk into any slot machines!" An old guy at the door said "Hey fellas! Are you part of the Mr Magoo appreciation society?" ..."NO!" growled Jack.
The guys paid extra for a table at the front and were swiftly attended to by the cocktail waitress, who informed them that the bar would be closed once the show started and there would be no intermission. "Right! In that case we will have thirty bottles of Bud please... Oh! By the way, Paul, it's your round." ordered Gary. "Keep the change." said a high pitched, sick looking Paul as he handed the waitress a hundred dollar bill.
The show seemed to go on forever, and although the guys started out coasting with the Coasters, they were soon drifting off to the Drifters, platting their legs to the Platters and almost ***** themselves to the Chi-Lites!!! The waitress returned to collect all the empty bottles and another tip from Paul. "Guys" she said "Can I ask you something? Are you all part of the Ray Charles fan club?"... Before Jack could growl an answer Neil quickly replied "No, but we did see him last night although he didn't see us." The boys all laughed and were still laughing as Neil attempted to explain the joke to a drunken John during the limo ride over to the Rio casino.
The guys decided upon having a cocktail in the Voodoo lounge, which was situated on the top floor of the Rio casino. The bar had a fabulous view of Vegas and you can take your drink outside on to the patio, where it was thought that the fresh air would help to sober John up; and if anyone else made a crack about their white tuxedo's, Jack could toss them over the side...
The guys entered the scenic lift, only to be greeted by a voice saying "Excuse me, but you young men wouldn't happen to be a barbershop quartet?"...."NO!" snapped Jack, but his voice quickly trailed off when he realised the he was speaking to an elderly couple who obviously had made the wrong assumption. The elderly gentleman carried on "You see, it is our wedding anniversary today and I was going to ask you to sing to me and my beautiful wife." "Well," replied a smiling Jack "in that case we will not only sing you a song but also treat you to a bottle of champagne when we arrive at the cocktail bar." The boys introduced themselves to the couple, who were called O'Connor, and then started to sing "Strangers in the night". But the higher the lift got, the higher Paul's voice got and John too drunk to remember the words only sang the "Doobie Doobie Doo" part; which would have been fine if he hadn't insisted on singing it over and over again. The boys were enjoying themselves so much that they decided to take the lift up and down a few more times to kinda give the elderly couple value for money. By now Paul's voice was going up and down like a yo-yo. Well, not so much up and down; more up and up. (In fact, we believe it set off one of the fire alarms!) John was by now singing "Scoobie Doobie Doo, where are you?" whilst Jack was down on one knee, arms stretched open wide giving it his all. Every time the lift door opened Gary and Neil stopped people from entering by saying it was a private do.
As promised, the boys bought the couple a bottle of champagne and a bottle of port; for, as Neil reliably informed them, it was port that would remove the stains from John's jacket. Two hours later, after swapping adresses, the boys bid their farewells to the couple. (The O'Conners actually sent a letter and photograph which was published to the Barnsley Chronicle thanking the boys for making their anniversary memorable.)
It was the early hours of the morning when they arrived back at the Gold Coast. "What the hell happened to him?" said a bemused looking doorman, eyes fixed on a drunken looking John who had a band aid still on his chin and a jacket that looked absolutely soaked in blood. (The port didn't work either!) "Oh, he had a fight with another waiter. Something to do with not sharing out his tips." replied an equally drunk Gary. "Well, shall we rack em up one last time?" continued Gary as he made his way to the bar. "Sounds good to me" slurred Neil... "Me too!" echoed a high pitched voice at the back. Jack just nodded and John mumbled "Scooby Doobie Doo".
The boys decided on a cognac for the final nightcap. Neil started to tell everyone that it was cognac that was good for removing stains from jackets, when he was interupted by a voice from the bar... "Look who's back. Its our friends, the waiters." It was the same bunch of guys who were in earlier; only they were now even more drunk and a lot more sarcastic. "If you guys are back on duty we would like to place our order now..." "RIGHT!" the boys said in unison. "First lets see if we have got your order correct, that will be five KNUCKLE sandwiches. And guess what, guys. These are on the house..."
The troublesome drunks shot out of the bar quicker than John could say Scoobie Doobie Doo...
The guy's had decided to go to Dublin to celebrate St Patrick's day. All except John that is; who, being of Irish descent, decided to celebrate it with good buddy Alan Hope in Amsterdam! This just left Gary, Paul, Neil and Brent but, strangely, no Jack. Now, no one enjoys a drink more than the Jackster; but no amount of coaxing, cajoling or threatening could persuade old red eyes to set foot in Dublin. This was very unusual as Jack is normally the first to consent to any drinking expedition even though he claims "he only drink's to forget". This philosophy appears to have worked, for he forgot what he had to forget about a long time ago... So it seemed the only possible reason for Jack's flat out refusal was fear!!!!!
But surely not! We are talking about a man who doesn't know the meaning of the word "fear". (Then again, he doesn't know the meaning of a lot of words!) The Chairman decided to make him an offer he couldn't refuse... But he did! Desperate measures were now needed.
The boys each decided to send Jack a white feather, attached to their own business cards. Thus, through the post Jack would receive 'four white feathers'... The sign of cowardice. The only problem being, where would they get the white feathers?
Paul made the suggestion that they could drive up to the local farm and get the feathers from the farmer's geese. However, he swiftly realised that this had been a mistake on his part as he had unwittingly volunteered himself for the job.
Now as you can imagine geese are quite partial to their white plumage and are not readily going to part with their well groomed coats; but Gary explained to Paul that he was the ideal man for the job. Hadn't Paul said himself that he had once worked on a farm; albeit 35years ago? So the experience would now come in handy. Paul just sighed, for he knew he had cooked his own goose
The plan was simple. Gary would drive up to the farm and keep the engine running. Paul would climb over the 7ft fence easy for a man of 6ft 4in and get the four feathers. This was the day that Gary learnt that Paul had no climbing skills. After 20mins of ungainly scrambling Gary managed to give Paul the final push, which sent Paul hurtling over the fence landing in a warm cowpat. Paul was now very annoyed; not because Gary had said the cowpat had broken his fall, but because of the rip in his trousers, which started at his seat and finished just above his ankle.
Paul decided he wasn't going to go through with the job, but realising he was unable to climb back over the fence without Gary's help, he was quickly persuaded to stroll pass the geese, get the feathers and meet Gary on the other side where the fence wasn't quite as high.
approached the geese with great stealth and much trepidation then,
to his relief, realised he could pick the feathers from the ground
and not really trouble the unfriendly looking geese at all. It was
all was going well until Gary sounded the car horn and shouted "Make
sure you pick really white feathers. We don't want any brown ones.".
Paul's needed to think quickly and without Gary's help. So in a high pitched whimpering voice he came up with the feeble excuse, that he was an actor and was soon to appear in the play "The Four Feathers" and needed the feathers for props; and by promising the police woman and farmer free tickets to the show he was able to talk his way out of it... Or so he thought!
Gary returned when the coast was clear to find Paul now leaning against the farmer's wall wearing what now appeared to be a pair of short trousers. Gary greeted Paul with the words "Did you get the feathers?". Paul responded by warmly shaking Gary by the throat!
received the four feathers through the post a few days later but
he still didn't go to Dublin for he had already made alternative
plans. But he told Paul that if needed he could be called upon has
a character witness in Paul's up and coming court case. It looked
like this time Paul's goose was well and truly cooked!
Disco came to our home town in a strange way. Billy 'Butch' Cairns had been offered a job at the local dance hall working the new spotlight. This was great news for all of us. It meant free admission and, hopefully, make us more popular with the girls. (Well... We could dream.)
Billy's first night was eagerly anticipated; a new up and coming group were making their debut. Billy said they were really groovy and played psychedelic music. "Great!", we all said, wondering what the hell he was talking about. The group was called something like 'Tangerine' , 'Pineapple', or mabe even 'Grapefruit'... No one now remembers. But whatever, they were a bunch of fruits.
We arrived early. Billy had 2 or 3 swift pints to steady his nerves; then the manager came and told Billy that before the group came on, taped music would be played and he could gently move the spotlight over the people on the dance floor. 'Far Out Man' slurred Billy, then whispered to us 'Every time I put the spotlight on you guys bring me a pint up'... 'Groovy' we all replied, still wondering what the hell Billy was talking about.
The music started and things were going pretty well. Every time the spotlight hit us we dutifully took Billy a pint up, which he thanked us with the words: 'Thanks man. Are you digging it?' After Billy had sank a further 4 pints we decided to hide from the spotlight, so Billy turned his attention on a cool chick (to quote Billy). The girl appeared to enjoy dancing in the spotlight but her boyfriend certainly didn't! So it was a relief when the manager bounced on stage and introduced........ 'The Fabulous Fruits'!!
Bathed in the spotlight the band looked great and sounded really 'erm' groovy. After the first song, the lead singer thanked the audience for such a great reception with the words, "My name is Johnny Passion and we are the fruits (Apples, lemons, take your pick.) and you guys are far out." We all shouted back 'groovy', thinking to ourselves he must know Billy! The spotlight was now focused on the audience, but it was focused on just one member of the audience........the cool chick. The band kicked into their second number. It sounded great, even though we couldn't see them... The spotlight was still on the girl. The girl tried to dance out of it, but the spotlight followed her. No amount of clever footwork could shake off the spotlight. Eventually the girl went and sat down with her less than pleased boyfriend and the spotlight returned to the stage just in time to catch the end of the song.
All went well untill The Fruits went into their final song called 'Jungle Fruit'. This song had a 5 minute drum solo at the end. Everything started of fine, but half way into the song the spotlight drifted over to the girl who was still sat with her boyfriend. Unable to take any more, the girl dashed across the dance floor and headed for thr ladies toilets with the spotlight in hot pursuit. The boyfriend jumped up and made his way upstairs. Johnny Passion shouted, "Yeah thats really far out". At this moment the drummer went into his solo his moment of glory. The spotlight returned to the stage and focused on the drummer who was beating out a frenzied beat. The spotlight appeared to be moving in syncopation wih the drummer, the crowd went wild. The spotlight started moving up and down the walls , flashing on and off the band... it was like an air raid... no, it was psychedelic! It was groovy... Far out... We dug it... It was disco!!!!!
Actually it was none of those things. It was just a jealous boyfriend punching Billy whilst he clung to the spotlight for protection and dear life. The spotlight was spinning out of control with Billy slumped over it when the manager arrived and accused Billy of being drunk and promptly fired him.
The following week we went to the dance hall, and lo and behold the new spotlight worker had been instructed to move the spotlight in the same 'Disco-pyschodelic' style, whenever the group did an up tempo number. So Billy Cairns now claims total responsibilty for bringing Disco and Pyschodelia to our local town, although we know that a cool chick and a very jealous boyfriend played a small part in it.
Years later, when we reminisced about the old dance hall days, people would say what period did you go? Was it in the B.C. days or the A.D. days?