Philip Hensher: Let’s hear it for ‘baggage-handling’

Notebook

Share
Related Topics

George Rekers is a Florida psychologist who is strongly critical of gay lifestyles, and in particular of gay adoption.

As such, he has made himself a small career in the service of state legal services. He testified in Arizona, where the judge said that his testimony was “extremely suspect and of little, if any, assistance to the court”. The Attorney General in Florida paid him at least $60,900 for similar testimony challenging a gay adoption. What does he do with the money he earns by contradicting the shared wisdom of his profession?

He hands some of it over to male prostitutes. Mr Rekers took a recent trip of ten days to London and Madrid. He was not alone, but accompanied throughout by a 20 year old man, subsequently discovered to be Jo-Vanni Roman - I guess that was an attempt to spell Giovanni, if you were wondering. Mr Roman advertised his personal services under the names of “Geo” and “Lucien” on a website called www.rentboy.com. He seemed like an improbable companion for Mr Rekers, who is an officer of the anti-gay National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.

Presented with evidence of this, Mr Rekers made a memorable statement. Mr Roman was employed, not as a catamite, but as a baggage handler – Mr Rekers was recovering from surgery and could not lift his own suitcases.

He was not discovered on rentboy.com, but through advertising. When Mr Rekers discovered, only halfway through the trip, how “Lucien” earnt his living, he took the opportunity to spend the rest of the time explaining the benefits of the Christian faith to homosexuals. Research, so far, has failed to discover whether this innovative outreach policy has been successful.

Quite why a Miami rentboy would prefer the wages of a bag-handler for ten days over what he could earn in his usual line of business, I can not guess. Nor why Mr Rekers would think it necessary to bring someone along to perform this service, when Heathrow airport only charges £8 to carry your luggage on request.

The widespread incredulity at this wonderfully baroque version of events has, however, added a sublime new euphemism to the vocabulary of innuendo, in the form of “baggage handler”. Public figures, discovered in unlikely company at the oddest of moments, have done a good deal to enhance our vocabulary in this area.

There is “badger watching”, after the Welsh secretary Ron Davies, caught in a well-known cruising ground in broad daylight, claimed to be looking for these shy nocturnal creatures. There is “toe-tapping”, after the Republican senator Larry Craig was accused to trying to attract the attention of a gentleman in a neighbouring toilet cubicle in an airport by this means – unfortunately, he turned out to be a police officer. Innuendo was unbounded when Mr Craig asserted that he had no intention of attracting a partner in joy; he merely had a “wide stance” when using the lavatory.

If Mr Rekers really did advertise, and found himself employing a rent-boy, it seems much more likely that he was the victim of entrapment than of an unfortunate coincidence. He only has to produce the original advertisement to dispel our incredulity, and stop the phrase “baggage-handler” going into the language.

What exactly is the point of Harrods?

Harrods is being sold by Mohammed Fayed to the Qatari royal family. The price is £1.5 billion, and good luck to them. But who on earth shops there? Selfridge’s reinvented itself, and is now about as cool as a department store could ever get. Harvey Nicholls is still enjoying some of the boost it received from Absolutely Fabulous. But Harrods is mostly remarkable for the almost inconceivable vulgarity of its interiors.

Years ago, it genuinely surpassed its competitors, and not just with its once-famous ability to sell wild animals unflappably. (“I’d like a camel.” “Certainly sir: one lump or two?” as the story went). Foodies now go to Borough Market; fashionistas have no end of better choices; and its furniture department is unique only in a way which can’t be recommended.

The only reason I ever have to go there is their perfumery department, which stocks unusual lines like Amouage and Ormonde Jayne, and where the staff often know their stuff.

It’s true that whenever you go, it’s absolutely packed, though it does give the impression of relying a lot on tourists, and does a conspicuously roaring trade in Harrods-labelled souvenirs. It is clearly a stop on the weekend break. The first task for the new owners is, obviously, to remove quite a lot of the Egyptian adornments in the style of Wilson, Keppel and Betty. But then, surely, they ought to make a virtue of its twenty-eight restaurants, none of which even aspire to fashion. If Londoners can be persuaded to eat there, as Berliners do in the gorgeous top floor of KaDeWe, they may decide that they want to shop there, too.

Comedy like Morris’s must be defended

The families of the victims of the 7/7 bombings will, of course, not want to see Chris Morris's comedy about the jihadists, Four Lions. Obviously, everyone will respect their feelings. But the argument that a film like this should not be made, and that it will never be a subject for comedy, is profoundly mistaken.

Comedy is a means by which intelligence defends itself. During the Second World War, the British consistently laughed at Hitler and his pretensions. The jihadists are terrible in their project, but we should not be afraid to voice the perception that they are individually ridiculous and even risible. The noise of laughter represents the opposite to the violence and hatred perpetrated in these crimes; in fact, the noise of laughter, and the freedom it springs from, is exactly what the jihadists most hated about the country they grew up in.

Morris is a voice on the right side, and Four Lions is a firm and even inspiring defence of the traditions which came under assault on 7/7.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: pours or pores, pulverised, ‘in preference for’ and lists

Guy Keleny
Ed Miliband created a crisis of confidence about himself within Labour when he forgot to mention the deficit in his party conference speech  

The political parties aren't all the same – which means 2015 will be a 'big-choice' election

Andrew Grice
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015
Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall