throughout my life in more ways than one and I thought it would make a great little story. It’s a Christmas romp through Oxford Street. Giving Channel 4 something to compete with The Best OfMorecambe and Wise.’
At which thought he gives a great satanic chuckle, suggesting that another McLaren conceptual joke might be brewing. Actually The Ghosts Of Oxford Street, despite being only a late-night Channel 4 one-off, is probably a sight more important to McLaren than he’d like to let on. It is his first finished film project since The Great Rock ’n ’ Roll Swindle, despite his attempts to develop countless film ideas in Hollywood over the last six years. He spent a frustrating year as a producer at CBS working on ideas like the legendary (and never-made) Heavy Metal SurfNazis.
‘That was the first project I ever developed in Hollywood,‘ he says, ‘and I was completely cut off. I was stopped really by the title and the short synopsis, because they hated the idea at the time of being associated with the word Nazis used in that manner.
They were a rather square and somewhat Zionistic studio, and were shocked and horrified at such a title and wanted to turn it into something called Surfer’s Fantasy, which sounded rather dreadful.’
Since then, of course, surf movies have, er,
surfaced, notably Kathryn Bigelow’s Point‘ Break, which McLaren recalls seeing doing the rounds at an early stage. McLaren himself soon moved on to other schemes, including Fashion Beast, a rewriting of the Beauty and the Beast story with a fashion designer in the central role (begin to see what Vivienne Westwood had to put up with?). It was an idea that predictably never made it to production, although McLaren’s lobbying style was dazzling, as Hollywood producer Lynda Obst recalls: ‘For two hours. my room was his stage,’ she says. "He tripped the light fantastic. He walked around, he picked up things, he performed, he posed, and he was wearing the most amazing clothes I’d ever seen in my life, maybe even a kilt. He would weave his stories with incredible historical detail that was entirely made up, that didn’t matter,
lAST OF THE FAMOUS INTERNATIONAL WIDEBOYS
lots of stuff that was only remotely true, and name-dropping like there was no tomorrow.‘
It’s a vivid picture of a hustler out of his depth (although he soon found a lucrative source of cash for minimal effort making TV ads). McLaren hates to admit it. but his style lost a substantial amount of its effectiveness in Hollywood, where his innate understanding of British pop culture cut no ice. It’s a lesson he learnt the hard way, with countless projects stumbling at the first hurdle or being misinterpreted.
‘It’s more to do with your references,’ he says. ‘European references are not understood in America. You have to destroy your references and take the idea for what it is, which is not wholly a bad thing. That’s what I was taught in America. You can’t say “this is a sort of Danton/Robespierre situation”. They’d stare at you and think “Are these guys baseball players?”. They wouldn’t know. You’re talking gibberish to them. You learn not to use those sorts 01. examples. The word “anarchic”, they’re thinking “15 this a new type ofdrug?” These
The pop provocateur and scourge of music and film industries alike, has turned his hand to Christmas ghost stories for his latest trick. Tom Lappin witnesses the ‘man who invented punk’ entering middle age.
December 1991 — 16 January 1992 11