Read an Excerpt
Now this is a Very True Story
The Autobiography of a Comedy Legend
By Jimmy Jones, Garry Bushell
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2010 Jimmy Jones with Gary Bushell
All rights reserved.
IN THE 'KIN' BEGINNING – ROAMIN' CATHOLIC
I have got a story for you tonight that is true. A fella got on a bus, single decker bus; there's only one seat right down the front by the driver, and sitting next to the window is this nun. So he went and sat next to this nun, and as he looks at this nun, he's done a double take.
He says, 'Excuse me sister, I don't mean to stare at you but you're beautiful and you're a 'kin' nun and all.
'Would you think of leaving the order to marry me?'
She said, 'I'm ever so sorry my son, but I'm married to God.'
He said 'Sister, I don't mean to be a 'kin' nuisance but I think you meet the one you're going to marry like that and you're 'kin' her.
'Would you not even think about it?'
She said, 'I'm sorry, that's very, very flattering but I'm married to God. Excuse me.' And with that she got up and got off the bus.
So the bus driver says, 'I couldn't help but overhear you, mush, you've got a 'kin' lovely line of patter. You've made her excited, she's got fruity, she's had to get off the 'kin' bus.
'Do you know the church in the meadow?'
He said, 'Yes, very well.'
The driver said, 'Well if it's any help to you I reckon you could pull her. She goes down there every morning at six o'clock for morning prayers; you get yourself down there and you can 'kin' chat her up.'
The fella said, 'I'll give that a try.'
So he got himself a big white wig, a 'kin' beard, Jesus sandals. Quarter to six he's standing behind a 'kin' tree, waiting. It's still dark. He sees this nun walking across the meadow so he jumps out from behind this tree.
She says, 'Jesus!'
He said, 'That's right my child. And you are married to me,' he said, 'and I have come down to earth to consummate the marriage.'
'Oh,' she said, 'you've picked the 'kin' wrong week.'
So Jesus says, 'That's a 'kin' nuisance, I've got the horn now.'
She said, 'Well I don't mind taking a bit up the back.'
'Oh,' he said, 'all right', so her turned her round, lent her up against a tree and wallop, he's given her one up the back. But when he was finished he was overcome with remorse. He thinks to himself, I'm a dirty bastard I've 'kin' rumped a nun.
So he turns to her, takes off the wig and says: 'I'm sorry, sister. I've got a confession to make. I'm not Jesus, I'm the bloke off the bus.'
The nun says to him: 'Well I've got a confession to make and all, I'm not the nun. I'm the bus driver ...'
It's true! I'm doing that on Stars On Sunday 'cos it's religious ...
I WAS BORN at a very early age on 9 February 1938. My mother was in labour so long the midwife had to shave her twice. I can't believe I spent two days getting out of there and the next 72 years trying to get back in. It's the only hobby I've ever had, and it's cost me a fortune. Read on ...
I was the sixth child of a family of seven. I had four elder sisters – Jean, Anne, Margaret and Mary; but Mary is the only one of the girls still alive. My brother Patrick was already in the RAF when I was born and Dad was never home, so I was raised in a house full of girls. I grew up being bossed around by women ... Nothing changes.
My brother Pat's still going strong. He's 14 years older than I am, so he decided to call me The General Nuisance, hence my family nickname is The General. I had two brothers born after me; one was named Anthony, but unfortunately he died at birth, and my younger brother, Michael, is still with us.
The worse thing about growing up poor in a big family full of sisters was the hand-me-downs were hell. Imagine turning up for PE in the wrong colour knickers. I wore a dress until I was 11.
I had a happy childhood, though, and I was spoilt rotten by the older girls. It was like having four mums – most of the time. The other thing to remember though is that when a load of women live together their cycles tend to get in tandem with each other, so for one week every month I felt like getting on me bike and fucking off myself. Except I didn't have a bike, we couldn't afford one, and you can't get far with a hoop and a stick.
We were a very religious family. Mother, Jean, was Irish and a devoted Catholic. Albert, my father, was raised a Protestant but he converted. They met in service, mother was a chambermaid and father was a waiter in a private house in Southampton. He was originally from Godalming, in Surrey, mother was from Dublin.
I was born in Southampton – so I was destined to be a saint. What went wrong?
When I was three months old, the church moved our family to Rainham in Essex, just on the borders of the East End. I didn't see much of my father after that because he became a merchant seaman. He sailed round the world eight times. By complete coincidence mother had eight children. He only came home to dip his wick! Lecherous old bastard!
I nicknamed him Percy because he kept his money in a little purse ... But he was a proper Percy Filth. Like father like son, says my wife Marion. Percy applies to my life too, as I have a lot in common with that film, Percy's Progress. You might not believe me but it's 12 inches, and I don't use it as a rule.
It was the war years and at the age of seven, I became an altar boy at La Salette church in Rainham. Luckily none of the priests ever tried to alter me. La Salette was a US Catholic church with connections to Lourdes. I only signed up because I like cricket. Well, they did have a bat in the vestry ...
Because I lived the nearest to the church and Mum was such a staunch Catholic I always got the 7.30 mass.
We had several American priests there, and I got on exceptionally well with one of them in particular by the name of Father Hayes.
Being a Catholic, I was educated by nuns. I went to Roman Catholic schools, St Peter's School in Dagenham and the St Ethelburga's Catholic School in Barking. I was full of mischief even at primary school. I wasn't a really bad kid, but I was cheeky. I got up to things and tried it on.
I was beaten by one nun for smoking when I was seven. In those days the nuns wore black habits with a big long leather belt and I can still remember the pain. Sister Stephanie caught me with a roll-up smoking in the toilets and she gave me a good hiding with that leather belt. She slapped me across the back of my legs with her strap and that did me a favour because from that day on I've never smoked again.
It annoys me when all these do-gooders say you mustn't give kids a good hiding. That's why they don't know how to behave anymore. I'd bring back conscription. Give 'em all 18 months in the Kate – the Kate Karney, the army.
The other great hiding I got at school was by the music teacher, Sister Dominique now isn't it marvellous how you can remember these names all these years later? She gave me a hiding with her belt that Max Mosley would have paid good money for. My crime this time was not paying attention in music classes and as a consequence I went on to become a singer – so it works!
Another favourite punishment was to make us take off our shoes and socks and stand bare-foot on the radiator. So naturally, I behaved myself in winter, but when it came to the summer I was a right little bastard.
At that time I really thought I was going to be a priest. As well as being an altar boy, I was singing in the choir, and as certain orders of priests travelled the world, I was convinced that this was the thing to be. But when I found out I couldn't be Pope I said 'Fuck 'em.'
Seriously, when I was nine, Sister Dominique said to me, 'I think God has given you a natural talent to entertain. God gave you your voice, use it.' She taught me about how to breathe when you sing, saying, 'If you learn to breathe correctly you will sing correctly'.
That same year, still aged nine, I was singing in a talent competition at Rainham Working Men's Club and a fella came up to me and said, 'I want you to join my band.' He went and saw my Mum and sorted it out. Luckily for me it wasn't Jonathan King. His name was Mr Gregory – I always called him that. The Gregory Family had a band called The Hilly-Billy Pennies, which makes them sound like they should have all had red necks, no teeth and discarded fridges on the lawn outside of their trailers, but they were actually a very good country and western band who played extensively in the local area. And when I say local, I mean Rainham Social Club, Rainham Working Men's Club, and the Silver Hall Social Club in New Road ... Rainham. You could do a tour and still be home by nine o'clock.
Top of the shop in those days for us was the Dagenham Working Men's Club, which was considered the number one venue on our little circuit. We used to do odd nights there. There was never any wages or anything else like that but they were good days.
Then at the age of ten I was poached by another fella for his band, the Rainham Nitwits. They were a bazooka band – they used brass wind instruments which harmonised with my voice. His name was Charlie Cutbush and his wife had some smashing bazookas of her own.
Charlie was the florist of Rainham. He'd been a police special during the war, and I came to see him as a father figure. I hadn't seen my real father for a long, long time because he was still away at sea for most of the year. He was the head waiter on the Queen Mary by this time and with my brother Pat off with the air force, I had no strong male influence in my life up until then and I'd grown up totally ignorant about sex. Things like that were never ever talked about at home. I thought my knob was just for pissing out of and that wanking was a town in China; provided no one was Peking.
All of that changed when I was 12 years old, though. I was on a variety bill at the Rainham Working Men's Club and this 17-year-old dancer called Margaret White caught me and my friend Peter Gregory hiding under the billiard table watching her and the other dancers getting changed. She was quite a good-looking girl, and very fit. She marched me out the back of the club, took me into a field and led me out of my state of darkness. She said, 'I'm going to do to you what my boyfriend does to me.' And she did and all! Talk about sinking the pink. That was all the sex education I ever had, or ever needed.
I lost my cherry 500 yards from the Cherry Tree pub.
Not long after that, Charlie Cutbush took me under his wing and he asked my mother could he become my legal guardian. She agreed because she thought it was important for me to learn a trade. The plan was for me to become a florist, and so I stayed at Charlie's house in Lambs Lane and I was getting up at 4am with him and going up to Covent Garden market which was the place to go for fruit, flowers and veg. What an introduction to the world of men that was. The market was a riot of noise and smells and slang. Charlie would choose the flowers and back we'd come home and we'd make moss weaves and so on. I used to make my fingers bleed, stubbling – a florist's term – bits of wire into the flowers.
Charlie also had land where he used to grow his own flowers and at certain times of the year he grew tomatoes inside this massive greenhouse. My job was to pick them and sell them for him. I'd flog them at Rainham Working Men's Club and around the CIU (working men's clubs) union circuit during the week; and at the weekends I'd be singing. The band never had a set fee, but what they used to do in those days, when I got up and sang, they'd have a whip round for me and sometimes I got as much as 30 bob (£1.50p) which was good money for me. I used to give my mum a pound of it and I'd keep 10 bob for meself. Her face would light up with pride.
Growing up we had the one thing money can't buy: poverty.
As a family we were dirt poor. If I hadn't been a boy I wouldn't have had anything to play with. It didn't help that my father had a terrible gambling problem. What little he did make was more likely to go on William Hill's than the family bills.
We didn't have money but then nobody down our way did. Everyone in Rainham was hard-up. We were so poor, our rainbows were in black and white. And you wouldn't find a pot of gold at the end of them, more like a rusty bike. But when you think about it, we didn't really need money. We didn't have X-Boxes and iPods and computer games like today's kids have come to take for granted. All I used to spend on myself was six old pennies (two and a half pence) for Saturday morning pictures. I'd go to the Princess Cinema Dagenham every Saturday and that tanner would get me in and buy me a packet of Larkin's Roasted Peanuts. Seeing Roy Rogers and The Three Stooges was the only luxury in my life.
In some ways I think we were better off like that. We learnt to appreciate the simple things in life. One of my grand-kids was showing me a computer game the other day and he said, 'Look at this grandad, it's so life-like I could be playing outside.' Well, why not play outside then? It'd be a lot healthier tearing about in the fresh air than sitting indoors playing a computer game.
At 11, I moved on to big school – at St Ethelburga's in Barking – and the poverty came with me. Because we never used to have any money, I got free school dinners. There was no free bus passes back then either, so I had to walk to school.
We didn't have an inside bog. But my mate's family had it worse. They didn't have an outside bog either. If you were there and you needed a Jimmy, they'd tell you to use the third tree on the left.
That was a joke, obviously. They couldn't afford trees.
I had no decent clobber back then; I didn't even have a proper pair of shoes or a pair of boots to play football in. Football back then was something else. It wasn't just jumpers for goal posts. Picture this: 38-a-side with a rolled-up newspaper for a ball and wellies for football boots ... and they wondered how we won the World Cup in 1966. Give us kids a proper ball and a pair of boots and watch us go!
Alf Ramsey, Terry Venables, Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Jimmy Greaves were all born within five miles of me. I rest my case.
You never realise the blessing of being born poor until you get over it.
Charlie Cutbush was very good with me; he had a whistle made for me by a tailor off of Petticoat Lane, and a handmade shirt and took a bit out of my wages every week to pay for it. Charlie saw me all right.
* * *
I'm afraid I can't tell you much about my secondary school – I was never there! I only used to go to music lessons. I'm not proud of that. I didn't learn the things I should. Reading is still a problem. Now they would have said that I was dyslexic. Actually I was dyslexic and ambidextrous – I couldn't write with either hand.
In reality I was just a cheeky bastard who hopped the wag. But not being able to read properly has held me back. I missed out on two big film roles in the 1980s because of it, two London crime films. They wanted me for the parts but I couldn't read the scripts. A shame, I think I'd have made a very good Violet Kray. But I've got no one to blame but myself.
I was 12 when I saw my father again. I have a vivid memory of him coming home from the Queen Mary and him saying to my mum, 'We're going out tonight and we're taking Albert with us.' He'd got us tickets to see a show and it was a night I'll never forget it as long as I live. We went to the East Ham Palace Theatre which meant getting a bus ride to Dagenham East and then the train straight to East Ham; and as you got out at East Ham, there was East Ham Palace. I was thrilled but when we got there they wouldn't let me in, they said, 'No, he's too young.' My dad said, 'But the gentleman who is the top of the bill gave me the tickets'. So they told him to go round and see him and we went back stage.
Top of the bill that night was a front of cloth comedian – a common expression for someone who might do his patter with the curtains down behind him while stagehands rearranged the set for the next turn. This one was the greatest who ever lived – Max Miller. Max greeted my father warmly and said: 'Albert, do you want him to see me?' and he said, 'Yes I do, I don't see anything wrong with you Max.' Max said, 'In that case then, he can come backstage with me, you can go outside and enjoy the show and come back and see me afterwards.'
And so I watched Max Miller perform from the wings and witnessed the charisma of this man. Some of the jokes went over my head, but some of them I remember to this day and some I even did in my act, like the deaf and dumb man who got married and his wife made him wear boxing gloves in bed to stop him talking in his sleep ... or the fella who was promised two acres and a cow by his future father-in-law for marrying his daughter and who concludes ruefully, 'I'm still waiting for the two acres.'
Excerpted from Now this is a Very True Story by Jimmy Jones, Garry Bushell. Copyright © 2010 Jimmy Jones with Gary Bushell. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.