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.
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 2 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Lynda Bellingham dead: Loose Women presenter dies after battle with colon cancer
Breaking Bad season 6 is still not happening
Doctor Who, Flatline - review: Clara isn’t half bad as the Time Lord
Downton Abbey review series 5, episode 5: Period drama falls disappointingly flat
Star Wars Episode 7 has almost finished filming
X Factor 2014 results: Chloe Jasmine and Stephanie Nala sent home
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver allegedly kicks gay couple off for kissing