`Oops - Sorry I Forgot Your Sad Suicide' ... and other greetings cards the censor saw

Related Topics
People who do very unusual jobs indeed

Number 29: A taste controller in the greetings card industry

"Up to the 1960s, nobody ever saw the slightest need for taste control in the greetings card industry," says Horace Liveright.

"That's because everything was tasteful. Ghastly good taste, you might say. Suffocatingly good taste. Everything was pink clouds and bedroom slippers and little puppies and golf clubs for dad. But in the 1960s everything loosened up. People let it all hang out. We had sex and drugs and rock'n'roll, and the greetings card industry was no exception. When the first greetings card went on the market inscribed `Greetings To A Really Horny Guy... `, you knew things would never be quite the same again."

It is impossible to tell from Horace Liveright's expression whether he thinks this is a good thing or not. Presumably he thinks it is a good thing, because otherwise he would not be the chief censor of the greetings card industry. Although censor is not a word he likes to hear.

"No, I am not a censor. A censor is someone who stops things being known. I cannot stop someone telling someone else that he is glad it is his birthday. All I can do is exercise some advisory power. I am head of the Greetings Card Advisory Centre. We advise. We do not control."

In what way would he exercise his right to advise ?

"Well, you may have read recently that a leading card manufacturer has issued a set of cards to send to people whose lives have been blighted by the suicide of a loved one. Sorry to hear about your suicide in the family, and that sort of thing."

And did Horace Liveright try and stop it ?

"Oh no!" Horace looks somewhat shocked. "No, we are very glad whenever a card company finds a new occasion to issue a set of cards for. It's the follow-up we try to keep an eye on."


"Well, whenever you get a serious card for a serious occasion, you start to get variations on it after a while. The conventional birthday card led to the satirical birthday card, and to the sexy birthday card, and the pop-up birthday card, and the musical birthday card, and the late birthday card... "

The late birthday card?

"Yes, you know, when you have forgotten someone's birthday and you try to make amends by sending an `Oops - Sorry I Forgot Your Birthday!' card. Well, that's fine with a birthday, but can you imagine if someone marketed an "Oops - Sorry I Forgot Your Sad Suicide" card? Or a pop-up suicide card ? It would lower the tone of the whole industry.

Yes, but surely the tone of the whole industry is low enough already?

"How do you mean?" says Horace Liveright impassively.

Well, there are outrageously gay birthday cards with pictures of naked men, and outrageously ageist cards for older birthdays, and highly suggestive pop-up cards, and... and... Hold on a moment. A pop-up suicide card? What would a pop-up suicide card look like?

"Well, as you opened it, a hand might go up, pulling a noose. Or a hand with a gun might come out at you. Or... "

Wouldn't that be in the most appalling taste?

"Of course. It's my job to make sure it doesn't happen. So whenever I come across a card which seems to transgress all rules of taste, I move heaven and earth to get them withdrawn."

And what happens to them if and when they are withdrawn?

"Well, they are all pulped, all except the copies I keep. I have a little collection of banned greetings cards. My Black Card Museum, I call it. Care to have a look?"

And into a back room I was led, after the door had been unlocked, to see the most unsettling collection of cards I have ever seen. Pop-up cards involving chain saws and severed limbs. Musical cards involving indecorous lyrics. Cards to be sent to a necrophiliac. Cards which involved libel on living people (mostly Jeffrey Archer, it has to be said). Gay religious cards saying things about the Pope which couldn't possibly be true. (Could they?) Blasphemous cards, naughty 3-D cards, even cards bearing illicit cannabis seeds...

"Amazing stuff, isn't it?" said Horace Liveright, lick- ing his lips, panting slightly and his face slightly flushed, as he closes the door to his Black Card Museum. "Quite amazing."

It's hard to be certain, but I fancy that in his work dedicated to protecting the public from the damaging effect of tasteless cards, Mr Horace Liveright may have become the first man in history to become depraved and corrupted by exposure to greeting cards.

React Now

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

IT Security Advisor – Permanent – Surrey - £60k-£70k

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

English Teacher (Full time from Jan - Maternity Cover)

£100 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: This good to outstanding school...

MI Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – £25k-£35k

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Geography Teacher

£100 - £160 per day + mileage and expenses: Randstad Education Leeds: This out...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Abortions based solely on gender are illegal in Britain  

Abortion is safe, and it should be as available as easily as contraception

Ann Furedi
Photo issued by Flinders University of an artist's impression of a Microbrachius dicki mating scene  

One look at us Scots is enough to show how it was our fishy ancestors who invented sex

Donald MacInnes
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album