The cat’s whispers

Two of the chief writers of Granada’s Bootsie and Snudge programmes on Fridays at 8.55 p.m. are Marty Feldman and Barry Took. The dark secrets of their joint authorship — well, their joint, anyway — are here revealed at last by CALTHROP MINGUS

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 16 April 1961

I HAVE kept silent long enough. But now I must speak. Now I must tell all. By telling what I know, I shall walk in terror of my life, but still it is my duty to tell the world of the graft and corruption that exists behind the scenes of Bootsie and Snudge.

First, let me tell you something of myself. I am a tabby cat employed in the offices of Feldman and Took, who purport to be the writers of Bootsie and Snudge; I say “purport” but more of that in due course.

I was christened Calthrop Mingus. (How I came by this name is a long and uninteresting story. It is best told by my employers, who are adept at writing long and uninteresting stories.)

Calthrop Mingus

I first came into their employ in the summer of 1960 (I secured the post through an agency), and at first it seemed a comfortable situation. Soon, they were to be revealed to me in their true light.

Not that they have ever physically maltreated me, but there is such a thing as mental cruelty.

It started with cheap gibes at my cathood. “If you’re a cat,” they would sneer, “where’s your tail?” (I am a Manx cat, but what do those ignorant dopes know?)

“Why don’t you catch mice?” they would taunt. There was none; what was I supposed to do, import one to satisfy their blood lust?

You have no conception of the lengths they go to degrade me.

They would exercise their warped minds by devising fresh soubriquets for me. “Fatty.” they would hoot; “Old Pajama Case” … “Boss eyes” (A veiled reference to the cast in my left eye and typical of their loutish, heavy-handed sense of humour)

At other times they would sing, brawl, whine, giggle, throw the furniture about and do impressions of Alma Cogan. (Needless to say — very bad impressions. Neither of them has any talent.)

Generally they would end up squabbling over who should sleep in my basket. But let us consider them separately.

Barry Took (as he now calls himself) can be most charitably described as a gawky, shambling, credulous fool. He is intensely vain and affects an opera cloak, a duelling scar and an eyepatch.

He likes to be called “the Baron” and tries to assume the manner of a Middle-European nobleman.

All in all, the effect he achieves is not so much that of a scion of a noble house as much as that of a barker at a flea circus, which, in point of fact, he was.

Not the sort of man you would wish to meet in a dark alleyway — or anywhere.

But it is when I consider Marty Feldman that my blood runs cold. Below middle height (in fact, he stands 3ft. 6in.) with the appearance of a depraved jockey and the savoir faire of a hermit crab, he is without doubt the better looking of the pair.

He likes to think of himself as a dandy, and his green frock coat, moleskin trousers and stove pipe hat have caused many gasps of surprise and grudging admiration when he rides in Rotten Row of a Sunday morning, on a large St. Bernard dog.

At his best — a truculent, bibulous clod, he is nonetheless an enigmatic and puzzling personality. You leave his company with one question uppermost in your mind, “Why isn’t he behind bars?”

These, then, are my employers. You are saying to yourselves, how can these moonstruck simpletons produce the scripts they claim to?

Come with me to their seedy office in a condemned building in Chelsea, and let us observe them at work.

It is a simple room. The desk is a homely muddle of bottles, dust and begging letters awaiting their signature.

The floor is covered by what in happier times would, have been described as a carpet. It is here we find them — on the floor.

Some deep, primeval instinct makes them stir. They lumber to their feet, mouthing curses at each other and slump at the typewriter.

They concentrate. Hours pass. No inspiration. They just sit there staring into space, waiting for something to come. Then suddenly — just when it looks as if it’s going to be a blank day, Took speaks.

“If I look out of the corner of my eye,” he says, “I can see my ear reflected in my glasses.” Hours pass. Then Feldman leaps to his feet … “I can touch the end of my nose with my tongue.”

Soon, exhausted by concentration, they shamble off to a nearby tea parlour and that is the last I see of them until night when, crazed with tea and biscuits, they return with their disreputable acquaintances to make the night hideous with their pathetic carousing.

How then does the script come to be written?

At last it can be told. The jig’s up and the cat’s out of the bag. I, Calthrop Mingus, a mere pussy cat, am the real author of Bootsie and Snudge. Calthrop Mingus — the name you never see.

But I’ve reached the end of my tether — from now on boys, you’re on your own!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *