Monday, October 16, 2006

Gandhi and Gates

You know the dilemma where your heart says one thing and your head says another? That’s the feeling I had on hearing the news that Indians now revere Bill Gates more than Gandhi. On purely material grounds, Gates is miles ahead. As well as creating the stuff that keeps our computers running, the man is donating billions to worthy causes, with a fair share going to the Mother Continent. While it’s true that Gandhi had similar aspirations for helping the downtrodden, the poor fellow didn’t have two beans to rub together. A fat lot of good he did by riding the trains 3rd class – had I been a low-budget traveller, I would have told him to bugger off to 2nd class to leave more leg-room for the truly needy.

Yet somehow these cold economic facts will never tell the whole story. There is something about Gandhi that stirs the soul, and I’m not just saying this because he was a vegetarian pacifist (as we gorillas are, most of the time). The Mahatma, you see, had a look and a style that was all his own. You could spot him at 200 yards from his silhouette, and he never gave a hoot if some people mistook him for a beggar. In a country where the big honchos used to ride elephants and wear jewels in their turbans, that sort of insouciance suggests a huge inner confidence. Gandhi didn’t fear ridicule because he knew that his homespun homilies would make anyone who mocked him look like a monumental ass.

Even a senile baboon could see that Bill Gates has no hope of competing with the Mahatma’s mythic image. For all his gigabytes of cash, he will never come across as anything other than a nondescript computer nerd. Even his pretty, but not too pretty, spouse looks like a digitally-generated housewife in a cake-mix commercial. A Bill-and-Melinda press conference is like watching a pair of well-tuned androids deploying their latest interactive programming on bunch of bemused hacks.

Of course, you can never say anything about Gandhi without some cheeky wag mentioning that he shared his bed with naked young women. So what if he did? A man’s sleeping arrangements are his own affair and have no bearing on his moral authority. I once shared my bed with no fewer than three female acrobats after a flasher had accosted them during a night out on the town. They were feeling vulnerable and said they’d sleep easier if they could bed down with a gorilla. Quite understandable in the circumstances and there was no question of anything resembling hanky-panky. I don’t know why women wanted to hit the hay with the Mahatma, but they must have had their reasons. As for opting to sleep in the nude, the oppressive heat in the monsoon season may have had something to do with it.

The good news about Gandhi is that the Indian film industry is finally making an effort to re-establish his credentials with the younger generation. In a recent
Bollywood release, a love-struck gangster is visited by the ghost of the Mahatma, who lightens the atmosphere by cracking jokes and offering him folksy advice. The hoodlum is persuaded to abandon his evil ways and adopt the Gandhi philosophy, apart from the bits about being celibate and wearing a loin cloth. This enables him to win the hand of the maiden he pines for, as well as acquiring the personality of a thoroughly good egg. If a movie like that doesn’t make the Mahatma popular again, I don’t know what will.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tony Curtis: look back in pleasure

Hats off to Tony Curtis for swearing off Viagra at the tender age of 81. It’s never too late to kick a harmful drug habit. That noxious substance will give a man an erection even if he’s not thinking about sex. Once he’s swallowed the stiffy-pill, it doesn’t matter if the vicar rings the front door bell or the wife gets covered in warts. The beast won’t return to the cage until the drug wears off, and not even thoughts of irregular verbs or Donald Trump’s dentures will calm it down. No male gorilla would ever think of taking a drug like that. There is a saying in the jungle that he who permits the python to roam freely dices with his dignity. In the wrong setting, a primate’s potent pride is nothing more than a joke phallus.

Age, it seems, has made Mr Curtis wise. He is now happy to let nature take its course every Veteran’s Day or whenever. And while he is waiting for the sap to rise, he can savour sweet memories of youthful debauchery. A treasured highlight would be his five-month love affair with Marilyn Monroe, then a 19-year-old starlet unseasoned in the sensual arts. It’s a fair bet that he gave Norma Jeane her first orgasm, which is not a bad thing to have on your resumé. Years later, of course, he starred with her in Some Like It Hot, when he famously said that making out with Marilyn was like “kissing Hitler”. People thought he was being ungallant, but it turns out they misunderstood him. He wasn’t referring to Adolf Hitler, the Fuhrer, but Klara Hitler, the Fuhrer’s enticingly demure mother. If Marilyn kissed as well as Frau Hitler – reputedly the hottest Austrian totty of her time – she was some kisser indeed.

The one major disappointment in Tony’s life is his still cold relationship with daughter Jamie Lee, once described by Penthouse magazine as “a very talented actress with a fabulous pair of hooters”. The daddy’s girl syndrome never quite materialised for Tony and Jamie, possibly because the former was out looking for poontang while the latter was having her birthday parties. My advice to Tony is that it’s never too late to make amends. Invite Jamie Lee over to the ranch and let her take charge of daddy’s favourite colt, feeding it sugar lumps, brushing its mane and riding it rampantly through the prairie fields. When she returns, flushed and breathless, greet her with a surprise party serving up toasted marshmallows, chocolate-chip cookies, gingerbread men and other girly delights. A daughter needs to know that she’s the apple of her daddy’s eye, and once he starts making a fuss of her, I predict that she’ll jump into his lap like a kitten.

Tony Curtis is one of the passing icons of our age, and I urge readers to show their appreciation for him by splashing out on
newly-released DVDs of The Persuaders!, a 1970s crime caper in which he co-starred with Roger Moore. Curtis and Moore played a pair of playboy sleuths, racing their sports cars in Monte Carlo, over-tipping waiters in the Riviera, and giving moustachioed villains a well-deserved bunch of fives. It’s vintage stuff, and the DVDs are worth buying for the theme music alone. Dr Whipsnade’s late father said that listening to that classic John Barry tune made him feel as if he’d just emptied his bowels. He was an eccentric man, Whipsnade senior, but I know exactly what he meant.

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