Silicon Fiction

August 1, 2007

Black & White

Filed under: Flash Fiction — Chris Neal @ 8:26 am

I’d said I would come over to keep Jimmy company for Terry’s first solo appearance on The Tonight Show at ten o’clock. When I got there at eight it was obvious that Jimmy had been drinking for hours. He was wearing grey jogging bottoms and a white vest under a gold silk dressing gown, which was hanging off one shoulder not quite meeting in the middle. He looked like a bag of showbiz washing. I sat down on the sofa and he poured me a whisky (he had no ice) that it would take me all evening to drink. He flopped down in his chair like a child who’s just been told they can’t go to the party. As I dutifully listened to him ranting on, his eyes fixed on the TV screen, my own eyes took in the mementos around the room that reflected my relationship with the duo over the last fifteen years. Black & White had been performing since I was a schoolboy and were already national icons when we met, but I like to think their continued success into old age was thanks to my scripts. Maybe it was, at least in part, but the two had also got to a point where they were untouchable in peoples’ hearts; fans would still watch re-runs of their Christmas specials on TV no matter how good or bad the latest gags were. Their classic sketches were tattooed onto the nation’s funny bone.

There’s a vulgar opulence and sparkle in celebrities’ houses. Life is another stage from which they have to project themselves to get the attention they crave so desperately. The curtains covering Jimmy’s lounge window and hiding us from the world outside were redder and more velvety than yours or mine could ever be, his lampshades more theatrical, his doorknobs more golden. The collection of ornaments, awards, and the framed showbiz photos that covered the wall were all placed to invite fawning comments from visitors. Jimmy’s world was like a theatre: the public areas bright and glamorous, but backstage it was dark .

I came out of this reverie as Jimmy snorted and poured himself another whisky. The theme music for The Tonight Show had begun to play . The break-up had been messy, bitter, and inevitable. They’d been at each others’ throats for years, each claiming to be “carrying” the other. Yet despite their well-publicised mutual loathing, here was Jimmy, watching his ex-partner plugging his autobiography on a chat show. Terry White was chatting to the host about his book and the break-up, but he was no longer the long-suffering straight man the public knew and loved. He was like an inflatable model of himself with a slow puncture.

In last week’s Variety editorial, Black & White had been called The Siamese Twins: life together unnaturally and uniquely intertwined, life apart impossible.

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