‘I guess I‘m a demon seed. a wild child.’ grinned fifteen-year-old Astra. still struggling a little to perfect the sulky pout to complement her peroxide locks. She wasn‘t kidding. True Stories: Talk 16 (Channel 4) introduced us to five Canadian girls who were turning sixteen, and followed them around for a year. What emerged made life in downtown Beirut seem like an oasis of idyllic calm. All the misery and degradation of human existence were here: drugs. sexual frustration, racism. curfews, disease and homelessness. all everyday aspects ofbeing not-so-sweet sixteen.
Astra’s story was compellingly (and occasionally hilariously) glum. She‘d run away from her middle-class home on countless occasions, when she’d lived on the streets of Vancouver, surviving by ‘scamming‘ (getting assorted lowlife boyfriends to steal for drug money). Briefly pregnant in the course ofthe film. she claimed to have had numerous miscarriages after a botched abortion. ‘It kinda loosened my ovaries I guess.‘ she said matter-of-factly.
‘She introduced us to her boyfriend Blair, who could be iirst in the queue iithe Manson Family ever opened a Toronto branch.’
Astra started the film optimistically, introducing us to her boyfriend Blair. who could be ﬁrst in the queue if the Manson Family ever opened a Toronto branch. ‘I get kinda violent when I‘ve been drinking.‘ mumbled Blair, ‘and sometimes I’ll just have to punch some guy out.’ Nodding along complaisantly, Astra said the violent streak didn’t bother her. ‘l‘ve never hit a woman in my life,’ asserted Blair with some conviction. Two weeks later he had another kind of conviction, when he was jailed for grievously assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Astra stuck by him, at least until she discovered that he’d been two-timing her all along.
Astra grew older. if not wiser. For her sixteenth birthday her mother prepared the favourite chocolate cake with mint icing, although her daughter couldn’t fully appreciate it due to the fact that she was blitzed out of her mind on acid at the time. A new boyfriend was on the scene and was wheeled out in front of the camera for our approval. Danny was
distinctly more presentable than - Blair. bearing only a passing
he continued, examining his tattoos.
resemblance to a serial killer. ‘I was a heroin addict for six years,’ he testified, explaining away the glazed look in his eyes, if not the twitch in his neck. ‘I used to be pretty violent, but I guess that was just frustration.’
‘You got the impression that Astra had, in her brief liie, managed to develop an intimacy with the entire iamily Wrong, including some oi the i obscurer uncles and a couple oi distant cousins.’
Danny turned out to be Mr Wrong (in fact you got the impression that Astra had, in her brief life, managed to develop an intimacy with the entire family Wrong, including some of the obscurer uncles and a couple ofdistant cousins). Temporarily giving up on boyfriends, a disillusioned Astra sought spiritual comfort. ‘Sure I’ve got religious beliefs,’ she said, ‘although there may be a few people who’ll say that satanism isn’t strictly a religion. . .‘ Her doting mother looked on in the background, oblivious to the fact that she was probably responsible for all this misery by saddling the poor kid with such a hippy-dippy name. To paraphrase Johnny Cash, ifI ever have a child I’m going to call it Mary, Ann,Janet,Jill . . . anything but Astra.
Astra naturally tended to overshadow the other girls, although shy, desperate Lena, the daughter of a Russian immigrant, made one bold bid for our attention. From the beginning, she’d confided her determination to get a boyfriend. Such single-mindedness found its reward. She’d ended up in the woods (this is Canada, remember) with a boy she didn’t like very much but, what the hell, he was available. ‘It lasted two seconds,’ she told us, spilling out the whole sorry story in one breath. ‘It was about as enjoyable as going to the dentist, and I had to go to the doctor’s for a morning-after pill, and it turned out there was poison ivy in the place we did it . . .’ The camera lingered as Lena, covered from head to toe in lotion, scratched frantically. You never forget the first time, even if you can never again look your hapless partner in the face in the
local McDonalds. (Tom Lappin)
A selection oi television highlights, listed by day, in chronological order. Television Listings compiled by Tom Lappin.
I Through The Keyhole (Scottish) 7-7.30pm. More exccrable voyeurism with regulars David Frost and Loyd Grossman and sad guests that are bound to include either Willie Rushton or Chris Tarrant.
I Spain On A Plate (BBC2) 7.3(l—8pm. Maria Jose Sevilla heads for Castilc. the ‘land of roast meats’. She joins young madrilcnos on a tour of the capital‘s tapas bars. and shows us how to make a traditional tortilla.
I The Music Game (Channel 4) 8.30—9pm. Tony ‘Smut’ Slattery presents the music quiz asking questions that range from rock to baroque.
I Jolter In The Pack (BBCI ) 8.3(l—9pm. Just what the world needs. another ‘people show‘. Marti Caine travels nationwide to get ‘real members ofthc public’ to share their excruciating jokes with the sort of sad shell-suits who tune into this sort ofthing.
I Bory Bremner (BBCZ) 9—9.3(ipm. Satire. sketches and stand-up comedy from the impressionist, joined by John Bird and John Fortune.
I Heartbeat (Scottish) 9—10pm. Nick Berry is the Cockney copper on location in 60s Yorkshire. When an ex-policeman is murdered. a Scotland Yard team is called in to investigate.
I Airplane! (BBCI ) 9.30—10.55pm. The ﬁrst and best ofthc Zucker-Abrahams spoofs is a glorious send-up ofdisaster movie cliches. eschewing subtlety for riotous bad taste. Suspend all critical faculties and go with the flow. With Leslie Nielsen. Lloyd Bridges and Robert Hays. I Have i Got News For You (BBC2)
10—10.30pm. The ruder by the hour Angus V
Deayton hosts another edition of the news quiz with regular captains Ian llislop and Paul Merton being joined by guests who include Griff Rhstones.
IBoseanne (Channel4) 10—lo.3()pm.The -
struggle to keep the bowling team out of last place causes some acrimony among team-mates.
I A Stab In The Darlt (Channel 4)
11.10—1 1.40pm. The first ofa new series offering a live topical look at received orthodoxies. promising anarchic and subversive comment.‘ Presenters are David Baddiel. Michael Gove and Catherine Bennett.
I Rhythms Of The World: Bombay And Jazz (BBCZ) 9L10pm. Exploringthe Indian inﬂuence on jazz musicians with improvisation by Don Cherry. Trilok Gurtu and L. Shankar. and a performance by Alice Coltrane. widow ofJohn.
I Alister Roadrunner (Channel 4) 9—10.30pm. Jools Holland hits the road on his trusty Vincent Rapide motorcycle in search of the lost chord in Tennessee and Mississippi. George Harrison, Robert Palmer and Mica Paris offer advice.
I Tom Jones-The Bight Time (Scottish) 10.20—10.50pm. The voice of the valleys takes a stroll down the annals of rock ’n’
I Teenage Diaries: Justice Sucks (BBCZ) 10.30—11.2(lpm. A new series made entirely by people under eighteen who are given the chance to control and shoot their own film. The first programme is a film made by 16-year-old Vonnie about herlife in care. See preview.
I Personal Best (Channel 4) 1(l.3(lpm—12.55am. Robert Towne‘s directorial debut is an impressively unpretentious study of four years in the lives of two women athletes played by Mariel Hemingway and Patricia Donnelly.
I American Chronicles: Bitter Nation (Channel 4) 5—5.3ilpm. in the second week of August. more than 100,000 bikers converge on the town of Sturgis. South Dakota for the annual Black Hills Motor Classic. David Lynch and Mark Frost‘s film delves in amongst the tattoos. leather and grease.
I Strathblair(BBC1 ) 7.45—8.35pm. The Ritchics have more marital traumas when Jenny's old flame Freddie and his wife Pamela come to stay.
I Sound Stuii: Piano Legends (Channel4) 8.30—9.3(lpm. Jazz pianist Chick Corea presents a look back at jazz keyboard heritage. featuring footage ofsuch legendary ivory ticklers as Fats Waller. Art Tatum. Bud Powell. Thelonius Monk and Count Basie.
I Mastermind (BBC‘I ) 8.35—9. 10pm. The grand final from the Universityof Birmingham. The finalists‘ chosen subjects are King Alfred, Presocratic Philosophy. the American Civil War. and the films of Kurosawa.
I Boot Into Europe (Scottish) 8.45—9.45pm. Cieorge Cole stars as the xenophobic Henry Root. tonight payinga visit to Italy.
I Moviedrome: Junior Bonner(BBC2) ‘)—l(l.3()pm. Steve McQueen stars in that rare bird. a non-violent Sam Peckinpah film. He plays an ageing rodeo star who returns to his home town to find his roots are being pulled up around him.
10—1 1.50pm. HanifKureishi wrote and Stephen Frears directed this uneven examination of 80s Britain. Shashi Kapoor plays a Third World politician arriving in England after a long absence to find that both the country and his son‘s marriage are falling apart. The links between the personal and the political are unsubtle and the conclusion weak. but there are some striking moments.
I Everyman: My Brother. My Sister (BBCI) 10.20—11.10pm. Peter Greenfcld recalls the horrific experiences he and his twin sister Miriam suffered in Auschwitz as part ofJoseph Mengele’s experiments. He is convinced that Miriam survived and has spent the last 25 years searching for her.
I Dance Energy House Party6.30—7.05pm. Normski, crazy name. crazy guy, introduces Rochdale warbler Lisa Stansfield. Innocence. Altern 8 and The
62 The List 5 — 18 June 1992