Friday, May 16, 2003

From the BBC ( again:
When Tommy Cooper once tried on a fez in a Cairo market, the stallholder - who didn't know who Cooper was - turned to him and said: "Jus like that," according to Jerome Flynn who is currently playing Cooper in the West End. Somewhat taken aback, the master magician asked him: "Why did you say that?" He replied: "Because every English person who ever comes here and tries on a fez turns round and says it to their friend. You're the first who hasn't."

There's something about stories about people who are now dead that makes them more powerful than stories about people who are still alive.

Reading this tale about Tommy Cooper, I couldn't help but think it had some great lesson sewn into its cloth. I doubt I would have felt this way if it had been about a living comedian. It made me think about the idea of persona, and identity and how what we project sometimes doesn't have much in common with what's really inside.

I think we all give more credence to things after death. Especially an early one. That's why John Lennon, Kurt Cobain and Jimmy Hendrix are so revered.
Or maybe the fascination they inspire is indirectly related to their deaths; maybe it's just because their untimely end meant that they weren't allowed to become old and pedestrian and make a fool of themselves, invalidating what they'd achieved in their youth.

I wrote earlier in this journal about a story I'd read in Douglas Adams' 'Last Chance To See'. In it he talked about a time when he nearly drowned, and the immense relief he felt when he was yanked kicking and screaming out of the water.
It was very odd reading that knowing that he was now dead.

It was the same when I read the Tommy Cooper story.
For that short time, he was alive again. In my head.
And I wondered if, when he was really alive, still breathing and walking around, he'd got round to doing all the things he'd wanted to do before he died.
I wondered what he thought when the guy in the market said that to him, oblivious of who he was talking to.

I'll never know.

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