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Old Jun 22, 2004, 05:15 AM   #1
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Default Eric Idle, the Rutles, and George

The official Monty Python website ( ) features a diary written by Eric Idle while he was on his Greedy Bastard tour of the U.S. and Canada and, because he often mentions George and the Rutles, I thought some of you would be interested in reading the thoughts and memories he shares about them in his tour diary. Here are some excerpts from Eric's Greedy Bastard Tour journal ( ):

************************************************** *********
Day Two. Somewhere in Canada.
Tuesday September 30th 2003. Publicity in Toronto
That was the great thing about having Terry Gilliam around. He would never let you get away with any compromise. Even when we did the Albert Hall last year for the George Harrison Memorial Concert, we all laughed when he suggested we sing Sit On My Face and agreed that was the obvious thing to do for George but it was Gilliam who insisted we must all still show our asses at the end. So there's a wonderful moment for you in the upcoming Movie of a truly spectacular concert performed impeccably by Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Ringo, Jeff Lynn, Tom Petty, Joe Brown et al. [Don't ask who al is.] The whole thing is sublime, marred only by the spectacle of ancient Python asses. You have been warned. This is not for the squeamish. And do bring plenty of Kleenex, because if you ever loved George you won't get through this one without a lot of tears. The LA opening of the movie last week was spectacular. A full-court Beatle turn out, Paul seen hugging Ringo, even Yoko, bless her, was there. Olivia and Dhani Harrison have managed to turn this whole event into a truly wonderful memorial and united all his friends in their grief to make a joyous and utterly unforgettable evening and now they are sharing it with the world.

Day Sixteen. From Palin's Postcard to Graham's Dick.
Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - by the Shores of Lake Champlain
But back to Basil, whom I first met in New York when he was working for Warner Brothers Records in 1977. I had yanked the Rutles album away from Clive Davis at Arista because Derek Taylor (my good friend and the Beatles Press man) was working for Warners in LA and he was so into the Rutles that he concocted a brilliant PR campaign of postcards, some with samples of the Rutles pants ("I think it was the trousers") and Rutle badges, and inspired lunacy, most of which was eagerly gobbled up by George, the number one Rutle fan. A few years back, as a gift from me, Danny Ferrington made George a Rutle guitar that for a while was his prize possession. Anyway, Basil Pao Art Designed the 10 page booklet that we put out with the original vinyl LP - now worth a ton on eBay (Rutleabilia is very highly prized on the internet.)

Day Seventeen. Lake Champlain.
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Interviewer Kenneth Plume: I was told by someone who attended that the recent screening of "Can't Buy Me Lunch" that it was a huge success with the audience.

Eric Idle: It was. They ate it up. Very satisfactory for me, since I wrote it, produced it and directed it entirely for nothing. Not much of a Greedy Bastard am I? But it was great to watch it with an audience and enjoy their laughter, while my wife and son and daughter were all there (and are all in it in small parts…) The only person who has seen it was George, and that alone makes it worth having done.

Day Eighteen. In a car park in Poughkeepsie.
Friday, October 17, 2003
I remember getting very excited when Graham Greene boarded my flight from London to Nice. I immediately wrote a postcard to Michael saying I am flying with Graham Greene. I have been happy to see quite a bit of Salman Rushdie. He is very funny in my Rutles Sequel Can't Buy Me Lunch talking about his early days in London with the Rutles. (Still unavailable from Warner Television, Nudge Nudge.) When I was an undergraduate at Cambridge in the sixties someone pointed out a very old man bent over a walking cane emerging from Kings College. That's E. M. Forster they said. Impossible. He hasn't published a novel since 1926. But it was the great man himself. So you can see it is literary sightings that impress me the most. I am a book snob. And proud of it. Once an English major… I know even the famous are not averse to bathing in the company of the famous. Stephen Spender told me frankly he preferred the famous: "they are more interesting" he explained simply. These were the days when I would have dinner with Gerry Durrell in brother Lawrence's house near Nimes in Provence. (I might as well go all out if I am literary name dropping.) But we are fascinated by the famous aren't we? All of us. I was once with George Harrison when a man totally freaked out and said "Oh my God George Harrison, what are you doing here?" and George said calmly, like a like from Hard Days Night, "Well everyone's got to be somewhere." What a lovely line isn't it. Capturing his pithy sense of fun and reality. I miss him every day. I am encouraging people nightly from the stage to go to the movie The Concert For George, which is just out in limited release. It is a wonderful memorial performed by his friends Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Ringo, Jeff Lynn, and Tom Petty, marred only by an appearance by some of the old Monty Python boys who come on stage on such a solemn occasion and then sing Sit on my Face and Tell Me That You Love Me. Then they show their ancient asses…. at The Royal Albert Hall! So ladies avert your eyes. But do go. It is a ten Kleenex movie, so go prepared for tears. They play only George Music and you won't believe just how many great songs he wrote.

Day Nineteen. Horny in New Haven.
Saturday, October 18, 2003
Since my marriage broke up I am saddened to relate I had not been an utterly chaste human being, "a bit of a shagnasty" in George's phrase. This was not helped by Carinthia my leggy landlady (Nasty's wife in the Rutles) who told all her friends that I was gay, and who one after another rescued me. These bad habits continued in Barbados until one morning, waking up on a beach with sandy knees and a young Canadian whose name I had not the slightest recollection of I realized that this had all got to stop. It was obsessive behavior and not much fun. I don't discount the advice and support of my spiritual chum George, who was always on at me to forget about my dick, and from whose influence I wore an Ohm sign around my neck. Whatever the reason I suddenly abandoned all sexual activity and began to live chastely for the first time since maturity.


Day Thirty Four. Sweet Virginia.
Sunday, November 2, 2003 - The Norva Theater, Norfolk, VA.
At some point the news came through that Paul McCartney had been arrested and thrown in jail in Japan on charges of possessing marijuana and Ann reminded me that I instantly got on the phone to the Japanese Embassy to protest this. I demanded that unless he was released at once we would all boycott Japanese Restaurants. That should have scared them. I must have been in to my Dirk McQuickly role. Paul himself gave me a very lovely hug backstage at The Royal Albert Hall Concert for George. I know how much he loved George too. I got email from Liv the other day saying she thought George's performing The Pirate Song on Rutland Weekend Television was the bravest thing he ever did, and she wanted to be a pirate too. Well his dark sweet lady was the love of his life and I know how much he loved her, and a braver, finer, lovelier companion no man could ever find and it breaks my heart to think of these last two years. With The Concert for George (released on DVD on November 17th ) she and Dahni have turned their grief into a remarkable tribute to a truly remarkable man, uniting all his friends in their sadness and turning it into a healing and positive experience everyone can share. The world should be run by people like this.

Day Thirty Six. From Barry Levinson to The Wire.
Tuesday, November 4, 2003 - Shriver Hall, Baltimore.
Virginia was the place for smokers. (Figures huh? It did introduce the practice to Europe.) In Portsmouth at the restaurant where I brunched people would hardly pause long enough in their coughing to suck in more tobacco. My cab driver lit up the moment I got in. Thanks for sharing. It's a puzzling habit. An addiction without reward. It kills you off without getting you off. I hope it dies out before we do. (At George's funeral I had the bad taste to thank Marlborough, "without whom we wouldn't be here today.")

Day Thirty Nine. St. Louis, Mo.
Friday, November 7, 2003 - Touhill Performing Arts Center
Olivia Harrison came out with George to celebrate his 45th Birthday, and we made a big cake saying Revived Forty-five, a reference to his Thirty-three and a Third. (Long gone is the world of 78's, 45's and 33 and 1/3rd's.)

Day Forty. Shuffle off to Buffalo.
Saturday, November 8, 2003 - Day off in Buffalo
Further down the mall in St. Louis there is a Beatle souvenir shop, though sadly they have no Rutles stuff. I made some Rutle merchandise for Can't Buy Me Lunch, but I gave it all to George who adored all Rutle stuff. I think the most successful present I ever gave him was a Rutle guitar, which Danny Ferrington made for me. It featured the Rutles looking out of the windows of a car, and George was thrilled with it. George once gave me the most spectacular present. It was Christmas 1975 and my marriage was breaking up and I was very sad and it was snowing and my little two year old son and I were alone on Christmas Eve. There was a ring at the door and we stood on the stoop bewildered as two men unloaded a big bulky heavy object from the back of a large truck and carried it inside. Carey and I looked at each other puzzled. What on earth was it? It was wrapped in corrugated brown paper and tied up with string, so we set about ripping the covering off. To our amazement and utter delight it was a juke box filled with rock and roll classics! There was a note on it which said "Every Home Should Have One, Happy Christmas, love George and Liv." Well we plugged that thing in and it glowed and throbbed and pulsated with sound and we danced madly to it all that Christmas. What a great gift.

Day Fifty Nine. George.
Saturday, November 29, 2003 - The Jubilee Theater Calgary, Alberta
Today was a bad day for me. The anniversary of George's death two years ago is on my mind all day and I avoid writing my diary. I know I will have to write something about him and that's a painful thing to even think about. That man, so alive with those amazing eyes, lying so still as I scattered rose petals on him, my shoulders shaking weeping. Sitting with him. Seeing him so thin, hearing that terrible merciless cough, no it's too damn painful.

This time last year I was in the Royal Albert Hall at the amazing Memorial Concert organized by Liv and Dahni and Eric Clapton, one minute laughing with Mike Palin and the Terrys (Jones and Gilliam) and the next losing it as Joe Brown played Here Comes the Sun and having to hide in the bathroom backstage, sobbing. I wasn't the only one with red eyes that night. Was ever a man so loved? So many friends. So many big strong tough men in tears. I almost lost it again on stage at the finale when Joe played the ukulele so beautifully and sang I'll See You in My Dreams, as thousands of rose petals fell from the ceiling. Everyone left the stage so quietly, avoiding each others eyes, here a friendly arm, there a hand on a shoulder. Too sad for words.

Day Seventy One. Knackered.
Thursday, December 11, 2003 - Fillmore Theater, San Francisco.
I'm not going to lecture you about laughter and tears, but when George lay dead and we were all sitting there very gloomy consuming Kleenex his son Dahni said "Come on, Dad wouldn't have wanted this." And I said "Yeah he wasn't all he was cracked up to be" and we all laughed hysterically. Laughter can certainly be a wonderful release. Sometimes saying the unsayable at these moments can work really well. Incidentally I no longer think "you'll see it's all a show" after death. I was rather optimistic when I wrote that in 1978 under the influence of my good and generous friend George.

Day Eighty. Home sweet Home.
Saturday, December 20, 2003 - Back in LA.
After I successfully pass through the lines of happy yelling Python fans, and listened to a heart breaking story of bereavement from a recent widow and her son, Olivia Harrison is the first person I see. She opens up like a flower and gives me a huge smile and hugs me. It's so great to see her look happy. I know she had a good time before she even tells me. She is with her sister Linda and they have been remembering with glee a story that I tell on stage. Olivia clearly remembers George preparing for the great Indian gag that he pulled on me.

"By the way, this is yours" I say handing her a package of $3000 in cash that we have collected from the encore bucket. We decided unanimously that the money should go to George's charity, The Material World Foundation. It feels appropriate. George has been present with me throughout the tour and these are clearly his royalties from the Pirate Song. He has been in my thoughts on stage every night, and tonight I almost choke up as I speak of him while mentioning that Liv is with us, but I manage to hold it together. Of course I'm not ashamed to lose it in public anymore, but a blubbing comic just ain't entertaining. So I keep it all positive.


& Here's an excerpt from an interview with Eric Idle by Kim Howard Johnson (About Rutland Weekend Television and Radio Five) at
"There's a terrific gag in that Christmas special. We had a wonderful time, we'd never been so legless doing that show. We were pissed through most of it. It's not that funny a show, but there's a wonderful moment where I keep trying to say 'Our special guest, George Harrison,' and he keeps saying no, he wants to sing a pirate song. 'No, no, we want you to be George Harrison, come on,' and so right at the end of the show, 'And now, ladies and gentlemen, George Harrison,' and he comes on with his white things, his Bangladesh robes, and plays [intro to My Sweet Lord] [sings] 'I want to be a pirate, a pirate's life for me, all my friends are pirates and we sail the BBC. I've got a Jolly Roger, it's black and wide and vast, so get out of your skull and crossbones and I'll run it up your mast,' and we go 'Stop, stop!'"

"I'm glad to say that's an Idle-Harrison composition and it's actually in Songs by George Harrison, the illustrated book. 'The Pirate Song." It's a very funny gag, because you just do not expect him to launch into - he looks so good, you know, he looks the same, with the full band and everything. It's a very good gag ..."


Also, if you would like to download some midi files and video clips from the Rutles' "All You Need is Cash" and "Can't Buy Me Lunch" you can find some at this website:
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Old Jun 22, 2004, 10:12 AM   #2
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Default Re: Eric Idle, the Rutles, and George

I like the artwork for for the Solo LPs.
Stig's All Things Must Fall
Berry's Goodnight Vietnam
That was a good laugh
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Old Jun 22, 2004, 01:05 PM   #3
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Default Re: Eric Idle, the Rutles, and George

Freda People, Thank you so so so much! I read every word...twice! This is George through the eyes of his dear, loving friend. This is beyond special to read. What wonderful stories, how precious.... reading about how George and Olivia sent Eric a juke box on XMas eve...

This is fabulous~ how blessed we all are to have George, be it through our eyes & hearts as a friend or as a fan.
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Old Jun 25, 2004, 06:31 PM   #4
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Default Re: Eric Idle, the Rutles, and George

I knew Eric had those journals and I thought i had seen all his George references... but in reality i missed about 90% of 'em so THANKS for posting all of this!!

There are a number of favorite bits but I love this:
"I got email from Liv the other day saying she thought George's performing The Pirate Song on Rutland Weekend Television was the bravest thing he ever did, and she wanted to be a pirate too."

Pirate Liv. who knew?
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Old Jun 25, 2004, 07:21 PM   #5
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Default Re: Eric Idle, the Rutles, and George

I saw Eric on the Dirty Bastard Tour a few months back and he was AWESOME. It was so much fun - I was laughing all night. And he told some lovely George could tell they must have laughed a lot together.
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Old Jun 25, 2004, 07:48 PM   #6
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That was great. Thanks for taking the time to put that together.
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Old Feb 18, 2011, 09:07 PM   #7
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Good to have this back up again since Eric's stories are remarkable
"Everyone should have themselves regularly overwhelmed by Nature"
- George Harrison

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