The Week In Radio: Shooting star almost got the brush-off

I’ll only give you an interview if you go to bed with me,” is not the kind of line a journalist hears much nowadays. Or perhaps I don’t get out enough. But whereas a request like this today would have broadcasting apparatchiks in a frenzy over harassment procedure, back in 1972 it didn’t faze David Bailey. It didn’t even bother him that it was Andy Warhol asking. He said yes, and the resulting surreal documentary made history, entertainingly recounted in Radio 4’s When Bailey Met Warhol.

It is only when you hear an amateur do it – or when you get fiascos like this week’s Radio 1 BNP affair – that you remember how much interviewing is an art. Unfortunately for Bailey, Warhol favoured what he liked to call the “anti-interview”. Exchanges between the two ran thus: “Is there anything special you’re trying to say in your films?” “Er no”. “Do you have any fantasy?” “Er no.” Circumventing this kind of response by asking questions beginning “how” “what” “where” and “why” is the first lesson junior journalists learn at hack school. But Bailey was not a journalist, and besides, he didn’t really care about the words. “I was pleased if Andy said good morning,” he commented airily. “That was probably all he was going to say that day.” The bed scene itself was “not very sexual”. Bailey was naked, but Andy kept his clothes on because of the scars from the time he was shot. He said his body looked like a Dior dress from all the stitches.

The BBC chose Jerry Hall, with her curiously Texas-meets-Twickenham accent, to recount Bailey’s hilarious attempt to make a documentary for ATV. Andy’s acolytes included Bridget, a woman who painted with her breasts (don’t even think about fine motor control) and a girl who was pioneering “flush art”, which consisted of taking a Polaroid then popping it in the loo until it went blurry.

It goes without saying the film was banned. Ross McWhirter and Mary Whitehouse got on board and Lord Denning granted an eleventh-hour injunction. The resulting censorship row was the biggest since Lady Chatterley’s Lover and kicked off issues about regulating television that have never really gone away. One objector noted there was a big difference between being forced to watch filth in your sitting room and “seeing it at the cinema down the road where you have to put your hat and coat on and go and pay”. Love that hat and coat.

The curious thing about much of Archive On 4 is how it feels like history despite being comparatively yesterday. This was 1973, for goodness’ sake! I know parents have to get used to kids asking about the olden days when they mean the 1990s, but there is nothing like wearing a hat and coat to the cinema to make 1973 seem like another age.

The thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history, as George Bernard Shaw said, but the BBC can’t be accused of not trying. The airwaves are awash with history right now with varying degrees of success. Although I deeply admire John Tusa, his daily five-minute chunks of life 20 years ago, 1989: Day-By-Day, on Radio 4 feel far too snatched to make a connection. Some things are not fascinating, just because archive footage is available. 1989 was a momentous year but does one really want to be reminded of its news and cultural agenda every day? By contrast, another daily retrospective, Amanda Vickery’s fabulous A History Of Private Life on Radio 4 provokes no such heresies. Much of it taken from diaries and letters, these delicious snippets into the etiquette of tea, or the hiring of servants, or what to do about bad breath, feel like forbidden glimpses behind the arras of history. As Vickery points out, the importance of the past lies just as much in relationships and private rituals as in universities, parliament and war.

The man we have to thank for all this is Herodotus of Halicarnassus, a Greek of the fifth-century BC who was the first to have a stab at documenting events and organising them into a narrative. We get the word History from his “inquiries”. In Radio 3’s The Researches Of Herodotus, he was majestically played by Anton Lesser, who wrestled heroically with a Greek restaurant muzak soundtrack and generally got the better of it. Herodotus wrote his “inquiries” about the Persian wars “so all those exploits significant and astounding between the Greeks and Persians may be kept in the public eye and I may trace the various causes that led them to war.” Ultimately, what |he discovered was that Asia and Europe were just “two continents fated to go to war”. Strange how Mary Whitehouse seems like ancient history yet Herodotus |just seems bang up to date.

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before