I Stole Freddie Mercury's Birthday Cake by Malcolm Hardee with John Fleming, 4th Estate pounds 8.99.
Sunday 25 August 1996
Garlanded as it is with emotional tributes from his peers ("If Malcolm Hardee is as good between these covers as he is between the sheets," erstwhile intimate Jo Brand observes fondly, "put this book back on the shelf"; Arthur Smith calls him "the South London Rabelais"), I Stole Freddie Mercury's Birthday Cake goes a long way towards explaining the curious degree of reverence Hardee inspires in those whose job it is to be irreverent. It is not so much for any one single impact on the British comedy boom - for founding the infamous Tunnel Club, for his influence on the careers of Harry Enfield, Gerry Sadowitz, Vic Reeves or Jo Brand - that he is regarded as its spiritual father; rather for a lifetime contribution. In a nutshell: the construction of a permanent bridge between the worlds of pub anecdote and top-flight showbusiness.
Some of the stories recounted here - the titular-Queen-singer's-gateau- larceny outrage, the one where Malcolm escapes from borstal dressed as a monk - might seem to challenge this book's right to a "non-fiction" classification, but it would be a brave man who would commit to disproving any one of them finally. And Hardee can hardly be blamed for editing out the litany of embarrassing failures and scams gone off half-cock that is the shameful secret of every shameless opportunist, since this book is certainly no whitewash.
Its subject has, by his own admission, done more than his fair share of very bad things. Malcolm's multifarious misdemeanours range from carol singing for personal gain, through car-theft and house-breaking to a vicious unprovoked assault on an Observer comedy critic (well, anyone can make a mistake). But his accounts of such misdeeds are admirably free of the self-justificatory whinging that is the usual stock-in-trade of the criminal memoir - "When it suited me I would claim that I'd fallen in with a bad lot," Hardee observes of his life as a teenage reprobate in darkest Deptford, "but the truth was that I was the bad lot."
Like all the most entertaining autobiographers, Malcolm Hardee is an inveterate namedropper - not without good reason is the first chapter headed "Near Someone Famous". His dearest memory is playing bridge in prison with now-you-see-him-now-you-don't Labour MP John Stonehouse, and the crucial first step in the warping of his psyche seems to have been growing up next door to Val Doonican. What exploits are to be expected of those who have grown up next door to Malcolm Hardee, few would dare to contemplate.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 4 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 5 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
Glastonbury 2015: Coldplay will not headline but Florence Welch might play, says Emily Eavis
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Mal Peet dead at 67: Tributes to children's author who was 'universally adored'
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'