Twenty Years Ago Today Page 4

Tania went off to work every morning leaving me laboring away writing with the huge German Shepherd called "Snark", directly under the Carol Conway Dance Studio where the floor would bounce for hours to the sounds of "AND one, and two, and three and four..." I plundered the book shops for more Beatle photographs, read every memoir I could lay my hands on, cut and pasted and parodied and after about a month or so of intensive travail I finally had a script I felt worked. Gary Weis was set to co-direct with me, and I was pleased about this as I had previously made two short films with him for Saturday Night Live. The first I wrote was "Drag Racing" - Dan Aykroyd and me in full drag racing along a tiny air strip in Flushing- the second, was "Body Language" a short piece I'm still proud of. For some reason - to do with budgets and Writers Guild requirements, which Lorne carefully explained to me, I wasn't allowed to be actually credited or paid for these pieces. Never mind, they were fun to shoot and on the show they played gangbusters.

February passed pleasantly in the joy of a new love affair and a new project, and soon it was time to fly to New Orleans for Mardi Gras where Lorne was improbably attempting to perform Saturday Night Live from the streets of Carnival on a Sunday in Prime Time, an insanely ambitious project which almost ended in disaster. It confirmed NBC's suspicions that they were not at all ready for Prime Time, and indeed Lorne was lucky to escape without severe retribution. NBC were however very pleased with the Rutles script which was now called All You Need is Cash and it was time to go and budget the shoot.

After the madness of Carnival I flew back to England tearing myself briefly away from the lovely Tania; (but sending her a ticket the minute I landed in London.) Life would no longer be possible without her. When she arrived in London I drove her around pointing out all the wrong places "That's Buckingham Palace" I would say pointing to the Houses of Parliament. "Over there is the Post Office Tower" as I pointed to Big Ben: she's been confused ever since.

A budget was approved. NBC said yes. Filming dates were set. Neil Innes was hired to compose a dozen new Beatles tracks and we were in business once again back in New York to meet with Gary Weis and discuss the script and casting. I interviewed Paul Simon in his elegant Central Park South apartment about the influence of the Rutles on his life and music. He played along beautifully, ad-libbing about the Rutles influence on him and his memories of them at the time. I then interviewed Mick Jagger at his house. "How shall I play it?" asked Mick, somewhat nervously. "Just act Mick Jagger," I said. "Oh, right okay," he said and popping straight into character as the naughty Mick he revealed perhaps more than was discreet of his memories - a Stones-eye view of the Beatles. Confident we actually had some usable footage in the can, I returned to London. Neil was hard at work producing mock Beatle songs. Craig Kellum the producer came over and we began casting and seeing how much we could squeeze out of our small budget. Rather reluctantly I went into hospital for an appendix removal. Ten days later, after a very jolly visit with George Harrison at Friar Park, celebrating my new appendix-free life with champagne and curry, I was rushed back into intensive care, green in the face and palely loitering. Craig Kellum's face was a mask of panic as I got him to witness my will before the ambulance took me off to the intensive care unit at the Wellington Hospital.

An unpleasant night or two later and I was feeling much better. Paul Simon had called me as I was recovering and I told him I was like a big gas balloon waiting to explode. I said "If only I could pass wind I might begin to come back to life." "Helping people fart is a service I happen to provide," said Paul and that did it. I started to laugh. I laughed so hard I started to fart. It was loud, long and deep, like a huge balloon emptying. It lasted for almost two minutes. It was so loud that Tania became hysterical. People popped their heads in to see what was wrong. They saw a loudly farting Brit beating the bed in total hysterics. When it was over I thanked Paul profusely. "I have had many thanks in my life, but that's a first for me. Glad to be of use," he said.


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