Take a bow, Tony Slattery

Miles Kington consults Professor Prendergast on those burning showbiz questions
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The Independent Culture
THE WORLD of show business is a world of mystery, isn't it? At least, it would seem to be, judging from the many letters I get asking questions like "Who is this Noel Coward and has he written any new songs recently?" and "Did you ever come across a primitive Amazonian tribe that was fighting to preserve Sting?"

Taxing stuff indeed. So today I have hired the services of John "Tappy Toes" Prendergast, Professor of Show Business at Milton Keynes University, to answer all your queries on the wonderful world of showbiz. Take it away, Toes!

Dear Professor "Tappy Toes" Prendergast, there was a time when Tony Slattery was known throughout the world of quiz shows etc for his ubiquitousness. Then he vanished. Who became the new Mr Ubiquity?

Professor Prendergast writes: Paul Merton. Meanwhile, Tony Slattery became a byword for nullubiquity.


Professor Prendergast writes: For not being on any programme. One of the by-products of being everywhere is that when you stop, people still notice you. They start saying things like: "Clive Anderson used to be everywhere! Haven't seen him for yonks!". Your non-appearance is noticed. So you get publicity for NOT appearing. Highly cost-effective.

Hmm. Tell me, talking of ubiquity, who is this glamorous blond person on television the whole time? The one they're trying to turn into a political heavyweight?

Professor Prendergast writes: You must be thinking of Boris Johnson.

No, it's a woman I was thinking of, actually.

Professor Prendergast writes: Ah, you must be thinking of Ulrika Jonsson!

Are they related? Boris and Ulrika?

Professor Prendergast writes: They are brother and sister, but they spell their surnames differently to avoid suspicion.

Dear Professor Prendergast, there's one thing always puzzles me while I am watching shows on television, and that is why personalities like Michael Parkinson and Clive Anderson appear from behind a curtain at the start of the show and walk to their chair. What a waste of time! Why can't they be seated for the start? I mean, Trevor Macdonald doesn't walk on for the news, does he? He gets straight on with it!

Prof Prendergast writes: It's to reassure the TV audience at home that this really is the start of the show and they have missed nothing.

Oh, but they have. They've missed the warm-up act, and the chat with the star, and the pep talk from the producer, and the bit where the man says to the audience, "Now, don't forget you're going to be seen on telly, so I hope nobody's sitting next to anyone they shouldn't be seen out with!"

Dr Prendergast writes: Yes, very clever. Next question please!

I read the other day that the Rolling Stones have decided to leave Britain out of their next world tour for tax reasons. Well, I went to the last local Stones concert, and it occurred to me then that the Stones didn't really need to be there at all. We saw the Stones big and clear on a video screen, we heard their music loud and clear through the speakers, but all we actually saw of The Stones was five dots in the distance who could have been anyone. Why couldn't it have been five stand-ins?

Dr Prendergast writes: It was. The Stones haven't appeared live in this country for 15 years.

Why oh why is all dancing today so formless and improvised, so unlike the ballroom dancing of yesteryear?

Professor "Tappy Toes" Prendergast writes: Oh, but you're wrong! If you examine the history of dancing you'll find that whenever there's a period of uncontrolled and apparently wilful dancing, there is always a counter- movement towards extreme discipline. So we have hip-hop and house dancing, but we ALSO have the popularity of very formal things like line dancing, Appalachian clog dancing, the tango and so on. It's yin and yang in dance.

That sounds like the glib, superficial argument you get on TV chat shows or radio arts programmes.

Professor Prendergast writes: And so it is! People like Benny Green, Robert Cushman, Gerald Kaufman and Mark Steyn have cornered the market as instant experts in Broadway musicals, but nobody has yet become an instant expert on showbiz dancing. I aim to be that guru! TV stardom here I come!

All opinions expressed in this column are copyright Professor "TappyToes" Prendergast, so keep your cotton-picking hands off them.