One Hellraiser of a mystery

... and six white men and the perils of Twitter

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The Independent Online

You wait ages for one VHS …

It began in October 2011 when someone called Philip tweeted that he had noticed an old VHS copy of the horror film Hellraiser on the top of a bus stop on London’s Old Kent Road. In January 2013, another copy of the same film appeared in the same spot and then things got really spooky because, suddenly, both copies vanished, only for one to reappear.

By now the story had gained enough momentum to be reported in the “hyperlocal newspaper” The Peckham Peculiar and London listing magazine Time Out, and then, last week, it went global: “Una copia en VHS de ‘Hellraiser’ aparece una y otra vez en lo alto de una parada de bus en Londres,” as one outlet put it. 

“Going viral is very odd,” says Tom Wateracre, a “comedian/actor/writer” who lives near the bus stop and who has been tracking the mystery on a Storify blog page, “but the main sadness is that it will inspire copycats: there has already been a copy of Hellraiser spotted on a bus stop in Newington Green and last week a Toy Story 2 appeared next to Hellraiser on the original bus stop.”

So does he have any idea what might be behind all this? “I have my suspicions,” he says, “but I prefer not to delve too deeply into it. The mystery is better.”

Gender agenda

Another tale from the box marked “Be careful how you use social media” …. Following the recent revelation that those innocuous-looking “Like or share if you love Princess Di” memes on Facebook were a front for a right-wing political group called Britain First, came last week’s widely ridiculed photo of six white men sitting on a panel at the 2014 Global Conference of Women. The picture, tweeted by a Canadian called Marie-Andrée Paquet with the caption “A picture is worth a thousand words”, was retweeted and shared thousands of times before its context was made clear.

Writing in the online magazine Slate, Amanda Hess points out that the picture was taken during one small part of the conference called “The Business Case for Gender Equality”, the whole point of which was to have male CEOs in the fields of banking, energy and law discuss how recruiting women can drive a company’s success. The Slate article has since, as a sort of apology perhaps, been tweeted by Paquet, but by then the damage had been done. And it still goes no way towards  explaining why the six male CEOs all happened to be white. Perhaps Britain First can enlighten us.

By royal appointment

Though the main action for this year’s Newcastle Pride (Shayne Ward, the Venga Boys and so on) takes place later next month, on 5 July there will be a rare staging of Tea With the Old Queen (see for ticket info), a one-man show based on Graham Woolnough’s scandalously imagined diaries of William Tallon, the Queen Mother’s steward known as “Backstairs Billy”.

Through a mutual friend, Woolnough met Tallon in the late 1990s when Tallon  was living in a grace and favour lodge in the grounds of Clarence House. Inspired by Tallon’s “discretion, unwavering loyalty and ability to say nothing while saying everything with a look or gesture”, Woolnough used that meeting as the springboard for writing his play, though other memories of that day are hazy, the writer says, “due to a “liquid lunch”.

One thing he will not forget, however, is what happened when Tea With the Old Queen was enjoying a run at the King’s Head Theatre in north London in 2010. “There was a camp box-office guy who rushed in one day and said: ‘You’ll never guess what, I’ve just had a call from the Palace asking about tickets.’ We all laughed it off, of course. Then, during the final rehearsal, the doors burst open and the Queen, in full regalia, walked in and took a seat. It was a lookalike, of course, but we took it as a sign of royal approval.”

Shame on you

“Unlike us, these kids won’t be able to hide the album … in the digital age embarrassing photos last for ever.” So writes Keith Kendrick on Parentdish about the trend for “baby shaming”, wherein parents post pictures of their children holding up signs “confessing” to their sins. “I pooped on the floor” and so on.

But before you go getting any ideas, take heed from the US, where baby shaming originated. In an article for the New York Observer headlined “Today’s Baby Shaming is Tomorrow’s Therapy Bills”, Una LaMarche pointed out that “parental overshare [is] especially creepy because it’s non-consensual. It’s one thing to whore yourself out for retweets, it’s another thing to whore out your kids.” Exactly.

No rhyme or reason

Another in a regular series of limericks based on recent events:

They say football’s a funny old game

Though for England it’s always the same.

We huff and we puff

But it isn’t enough

Our three lions turn out to be tame.