The days before NominateBill were a turbulent time for Hughie, Jon, Paul and Rick. Like some sort of space particles, all four were roaming aimlessly - colliding randomly with various objects or situations. They would then bounce off, and be sent spinning on new and, often, less interesting courses. However, in a suspiciously felicitous turn of events, all four were one day forced -against their will- to spend an extended period of time in a luxury hotel complex called Alcuin Heights. C Wing.
That's where the NominateBill project began. That's where it all began. This is the story of how the incalculably remote odds of four such abundantly-talented individuals actually being in one room at the same time were beaten.
This is the story of the genesis of NominateBill.
Paul, a foundling, was raised by a she-wolf in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. She had no name, but Paul would, and still does, refer to her as Grrrwwrr.
He spent his formative years roaming the extensive Mansfield plains; hunting sheep, deer, and any other mammal smaller than himself. It was a crazy life: Paul, side by side with his adoptive mother and her pack, tearing at the carcass of a pig or sprinting over hill and dale in pursuit of a small rabbit. Unlike a cuckoo in a sparrow's nest, Paul was nurtured by his lupine brethren. Paul was happy.
He became a local myth -word of a boy hunting with a pack of wolves spreads fast. All kinds of fantastic stories were created. Mothers would scare their children into good behaviour with threats of the wild-boy who eats the ears of misbehaving children. Lovers would embrace beneath an old oak, and speak in hushed tones of 'Crazy Dave the Wolf Man'.
Then, one day, an intrepid Nottingham Evening Post reporter tracked Paul down. Harry Brim was no romantic. Twenty years at The Post made sure of that. This was his big scoop. He'd not had a chance like this since the tip-off that some blokes were about to nick a fruit machine from a pub in Ilkeston. But this was no fruit machine. This was fantastic. The headline was Lycanthroptastic!
The story made the nationals. Hoards of reporters, cryptozoologists, big game hunters, crazies, wackos, and half-baked wierdos from the wrong side of Insaneville descended on the North Nottinghamshire countryside. All looking for a piece of Paul. All out for their fifteen minutes. It was a circus, man. A local farmer, disturbed by Paul's sheep-worrying antics, put a £10,000 bounty on his head.
Eventually, Paul was captured. A well disciplined team, headed by Dr Claus Rilke (formerly Vice-chair of Psychology a Princeton University) caught him in a large net. Paul struggled. Tearing and biting at the mesh, he finally collapsed in a bloody, exhausted heap. Rilke had won. Paul was tamed.
Years of tests followed. Paul was observed, poked, fiddled about with and 'reconditioned'. The scientists did a good job. By his eighteenth Birthday Paul could say at least twenty different words, and he no longer shat in the corner of the room as the fancy took him. He was human. But Paul wasn't happy. He longed for the open fields and blood of his instincts and memories. So Paul escaped.
One night, with the aid of another inmate, the Owl Boy of Didsbury, he fashioned a rudimentary rope-ladder. Ironically, and, as if to deliberately -through the subtle use of imagery- highlight the metaphorical implications of his recent life, the ladder was made up of knotted together white scientific-type jackets, like doctors, such as Quincy, wear... but Quincy was often off on one of his tangents, solving mysteries and crime, neglecting the meat and potatoes of his profession - actual forensic pathology - leaving the poor, put-upon Sam to do all the proper work, so he would more often than not be wearing some sort of suit... brown probably... although he sometimes wore a stripy jumper when he was on his yacht, and sometimes nothing at all when he'd tempted some bikini-babe back to his floating love palace....
Paul ran. His legs were lithe and well-developed from the wild life. He sped across the land. He leapt rivers, waded lakes, rolled down hills, smoked some fags and drank some booze, fought with a family of dog-headed men in Leicestershire, inadvertently saved a small girl from white slavers in Eastwood, and urinated up a tree in Castleton, Derbyshire.
Finally, one evening, whilst searching
through industrial-sized bins for raw meat at the back of some kitchens in
York, Paul became aware of the sweetest sound he had ever heard in his uneventful
life. 'One night stand, ooh I need a one night stand... just one night when
I don't need my hand'. The sound swept over his existence like mist over the
Like Odysseus' men to the Siren song, or to the temptations of the island of the enchantress Cerces; like Simon Daedalus in Ulysses at the brothel (oh yeah, I get it now...); like cheese to pickle; like Hughie to men's bums, Paul felt an irresistible attraction. In a trance, he stumbled towards the source of the heavenly din....
Hughie was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar in Wakefield. It was called 'Aphrodite's'. Hughie didn't love it though. The punters got too frisky. He was a monkey being paid peanuts: turning tricks for the scum who drank there. The carpets were sticky, the walls were soaked with some mysterious liquid, and Barry, the manager, got drunk on a Saturday and tried to touch him up.
One day, while serving a White Russian to a Somali warlord, Hughie had a moment of clarity. Explaining to Ali Ahmed that there was more to life than amusingly-titled spirit and fruit juice combinations, he quit. This outburst was wasted on Ahmed as he was a recently-arrived asylum-seeker who had been shunted north in Kent County Council's Refugee Relocation Initiative: he spoke no English.
The gaudy décor and dank atmosphere had got to Hughie. He really flipped. Glasses were smashed, hair was pulled, nails were broken: he was angry. And you wouldn't like it when he was angry.
With no job, Hughie was forced to leave his house. His landlord, the evil Barry Wilmot, offered to let him stay for 'payment in kind'. Hughie refused, remarking, 'You can shove it up your arse... er, I'm talking about your offer.'
So Hughie was on the streets. Years he spent trudging the highways, doing all kinds of depraved things for anything he could get. He once even assembled some furniture for £3.80 an hour. Then, one day, he met Harry.
Harry was the ringmaster of the Harry Budge Circus. It was a low point for Hughie. The furniture gig had crashed (he couldn't even assemble furniture to an acceptable standard) and Gary, his long-term friend, had vanished during a conjuring trick. The charismatic Harry Budge, and all his promises of wealth and fame, enchanted the impressionable Hughie.
For two years, Hughie was the main attraction in the freak tent of the Harry Budge Circus. 'Hughie: The Amazing Crap Man' was his moniker. And he really was crap. No-one, not even Madeley, could touch him at being crap. Children would gasp at his utter shitness; rushing from the tent they would cry: 'Mummy, mummy, I'm frightened. The crap man frightened me.'
Despite the bright lights and adulation of fame, Hughie couldn't help but feel his label as the crappest man on earth somewhat diminished his standing among his peers (even though his peer group consisted of The Bearded Lady, Tiny Tom Piggins, the Fifty Year-Old Boy, and Rachid Xanti: The Dirtiest Man on Earth). So, he told Budge he was leaving. Budge didn't like that. Hughie was a goose that laid golden eggs. He was his meal ticket. 'You may be a pile of shit, but you're a twenty four caret platinum pile of shit,' blasted the enraged Budge. 'You're going nowhere.'
Chained to a large stone, Hughie was beaten, tortured, and subjected to Billy Joel 'classics' 24/7. They tried to break his will. They almost succeeded. If it weren't for a small mouse that would visit him at night, reminding of the beauty in the world outside his confinement, Hughie would have capitulated.
Hughie was strong. He got angry. Budge certainly didn't like it when Hughie was angry. A swift jive to the neck floored the creep. Dragging his rock behind him, Hughie fled...
All hell broke loose. Budge ordered his minions to bring in Hughie dead or alive. No-one screwed with Harry Budge! The circus had reached York in the northern leg of its tour. Down The Shambles; beside the minster; around Clifford's Tower; in The Lighthorseman pub - the circus folk swept through the city like Barrymore through a group of slightly confused elderly women. Freaky shit indeed. Jonah, the strong man, in his tiger-skin loincloth, wrecked the Jorvik Viking Centre - damaging the pooh smell-producing device. Carlos Almera And His Malleable Friends, the contortionist troupe, tore apart The Spotted Cow pub, distorting it into the shape of a Chinese restaurant. The clowns, having, like all clowns, the innate ability to summon dark forces, performed a black mass (their painted-on smiles inverted in a parody of the true mass) unleashing the hell dogs that dwell in the dark regions of the soul.
All this was to no avail. Hughie had been taken in by a good Samaritan. A small boy, recently-arrived from LA. His name was Jon....
Jon was destined for fame and fortune. A child prodigy, he was spotted singing dirges into the wind on a North Devon clifftop by Hollywood producer Heimi Schnitzel. With the force of the Atlantic barracking his tiny frame, Jon would stand firm, crying into the squall: 'The old man drank his whiskey and rode a grey horse, back to his shack where his wife was no more.'
For six year-old child, this was odd. Schnitzel didn't see it like that, though. He saw it was gold. As he explained to the board of Mirafox films, 'This is fucking dynamite, man. No shit. Top bazoola. The kid's a star and I 'aint talking no fucking Mackauley Culkin Home Alone shit, I'm talking Shirley fucking Temple, man. Put him in a dress and slap a curly wig on his head and we're on the fucking moon!'
There was a problem. Jon's family - a rambling collection of inbred Westcountry peasants - were not to be persuaded. Jon was to marry Griselda Fitzherbert as part of an ancient family blood tie. In Wessex tradition, the eldest son of the fifth generation after a pact had been agreed was promised to the corespondent's family. Jon's great, great, grandfather, Thomas of Minchinhampton, had lost a cider-drinking contest to Harold Fitzherbert. Jon was staying put.
Schnitzel wasn't having that. He hadn't spent his life sucking the asses of a million brain-dead schloozas, and wiping the snotty noses of a bunch of goofballed-up ass-monkeys to have his flight to the land of milk and fucking honey cancelled now. The fucking scrawny kid was his. He'd found him. No fucking horse-faced moochos were going to screw up his big time. So, he kidnapped Jon.
Snatched from up an oak tree on Exmoor, Jon was bundled into a helicopter and flown to Bideford International Airport, where a chartered flight swept him to his new life in Hollywood. There was an outcry. 'Hollywood Bigshot Kidnaps Boy', wrote The Mail, 'Jon's Gone', wrote The Sun. The case was taken up by MP Roger Casement, who asked a question in the House. The public was aghast. The government had to act. It did. The case of Schnitzel v The Perkins Folk was held in the fall.
It was turgid case, watched by millions around the world. The shocking image of an FBI agent pointing a high-calibre semiautomatic gun towards Jon, who was in the arms of Schnitzel (fucking gold plated ass-breaking publicity, man), produced an international frenzy of anti-American feeling.
However, the law is blind. The case was settled in favour of Schnitzel and the studio. Citing the obscure eighteenth century 'Bagsey' law, the judge ordered Jon must forthwith be considered the property and chattle of Schnitzel.
By the age of nine, Jon had five musical comedy feature films under his snake-belt. He was a phenomenon. If you thought Mickey Rooney was big, you should have seen Jon. Millions of adoring small girls would camp out outside hotels just on the vaguest rumour that Jon was there. He travelled the world. One day it was Sydney, the next Kampuchea. He was big time. He worked with all the greats - Michael Caine, Elizabeth Taylor, Robert Redford, Judge Rheinhold. The world was a haze for Jon.
It was too much too young. The high life took its toll on the young Devon lad. There were scandals. 'Baby Jon in booze n' drugs n' prozzie shocker!' exclaimed The Sun. 'The Mysterious Case of the Boy, the Snake and the Gypsy Girl' intoned The Guardian. It was a crack-frazzled hell. He was hounded. Like a hare at a course-meet, Jon was hunted down. And they tore him to shreds.
The last straw was 'Look at Me, Aren't I Great' - a Jim Carrey movie. Jon had sunk low. He had been arrested for snorting jowsie from a linklater's mid-cup on Sunset Strip. The studio had sent him to the Appalachians to dry-out. It should have been his triumphant return to the big time. 'Little Jon in Supernova Success' was the headline he'd dreamt up whilst gazing at the Appalachian sky, a billion stars reflecting in his pale eyes.
But it wasn't like that. In the film, Jon was to play a transsexual drug addict prostituting herself for ten bucks a pop. Too close to home, thought Jon. Carrey's character saves her from herself in a heroic and completely un-self-righteous sort of a way. But Jon was tarnished. The first to admit he hadn't the presence for character work, he quit halfway through shooting. That was that. As far as Hollywood was concerned, Jon had had his chance and blown it (like in the film).
Jon didn't mind. The West Coast
scene made him sad. He had to make like a dandelion fairy and blow that ass-pit
of banality. He did. He was blown over the Atlantic and through the window
of a luxury hotel complex in York - Alcuin Heights, C Wing....
Rick always craved fame. As a small child, he could be found most evenings performing Al Jolson routines for pennies outside the steel factory gates in Scunthorpe. Sonny Boy was the real earner. The grizzled expressions on the faces of the burly steel workers would melt into a soft pout of mild regret, as the sound of the sweet boy infused their mood with mournful thoughts of waste and unuttered sentiment. He was a bluebird that had swept down into the dark garden of the workers' lives.
But in Scunthorpe beauty doesn't live long. At the age of eight, he was put to work in the factory. Ratboy was what they called him. His job was to crawl under the rollers retrieving any stray molten steel. A hard job. But for someone with Rick's fragile tendencies it was impossible. Even the workers had forgotten about his singing. He was just another sprocket of the dark satanic mill.
Still, he worked hard. Coming from nonconformist stock, he had, and still has, a strong work ethic. "That boy'll gerh plahces," said his foreman, Mike Judd. He did. By ten, he was Retriever-In-Chief; at eleven, he was Assistant Metal-Bender, and, by half-past two, he had become Chief Metal-bender. It was a meteoric career.
Then, the accident happened. There was a particularly large piece of metal that needed bending. Rick was the only man for the job. Girding his sizeable loins, he prepared himself. Gripping tight the bending spoon, and accurately positioning the twirl cup, he set the Bendomatic F45 in motion. But he'd made a mistake. Too confident. He'd forgotten to reset the crimping thrust. A scream, so obscene it could have come from the bowels of the Hell-God himself, was the last sound his beautiful voice was to make. A red-hot piece of steel leapt from the Bendomatic F45, piercing his throat. His larynx were irreparably damaged. He'd never sing again.
Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, his steel factory career was over. As Judd explained, "We carn't 'ave a jibbrin' noot baskit werkin' 'ere - there's too mooch metal arahnd." Although this made no sense to Rick, he knew he'd have to leave. With six pound twenty severance in his back pocket, he set off: a plan simmering at the back of his flat head.
Deep in the Amazon a green bird dropped from the sky; a monkey walked backwards, and a jaguar screeched at the moon. This was enough for Xantuck Mi'an, the Shaman of the Nan''truckia tribe. The portents were clear. He was to be paid a visit.
Rick decided to go travelling.
As the National Express coach joined the motorway, he stuck two fingers up
at the fish-riddled stench hole that was Scunthorpe. Unfortunately he was
in an aisle seat. The rather large man to Rick's right didn't take kindly
to the gesture. As the Hate-tattooed fists pummelled his beautiful face, Rick
laughed. Very quietly.
First stop: Jalalhabad. He had heard about a yogi, called Maharastra Ruj, who was gifted in the arts of the unknown. 'It could work,' thought Rick, 'but I don't know'. He met Ruj. Ruj didn't know. Next, Rick visited Toby Amatong, the chief of a native Australian tribe. Amatong performed the ritual of the sky-dance: he rattled his bones all over the stones, and, amid the frenzy of noise, he called to the spirits. The spirits were silent.
Rick's last hope was South America. He had heard wondrous tales of the shaman of a little known Amazonian tribe, the Nan''truckia people. With a heavy, disconsolate air, he boarded the flight to Rio.
A two-month trek through malaria-infested swampland and dense forest, and Rick finally arrived at the village of the Nan''truckia. He sought out Xantuck Mi'an, the shaman, and, through various signs and signals asked: 'How do I get my voice back?'. The shaman drank his spirit drink and danced the dance of the jaguar. He then spoke: 'Strong the spirits are tonight. Say they pieces four are there to the whole. A child of the stars, a boy who suckle at the wolf did, and a man of crap three of are. The forth are you. Must you find the three and the destiny complete. Then your voice return will. Mmmmmmm.'
Surprisingly accurate address details were supplied by the spirits. Rick set sail for York. Destination Alcuin Heights. C wing...
On entering the arabesque and opulent reception Rick was aware of a force pulling him towards his destiny: Room C010. The door was ajar. He entered. A big faced man, a scrawny boy and a lanky twat greeted him. Jon, their leader, held out a light fitting of cider. Rick accepted. He drank. 'Erh... cergh... sss... ssi... ccci... cciddd...cciddegh... cider... cider mind!' were the words he uttered.