In Bed With
JULIAN CLARY, the F inbarr Saunders with added flounce, is back on our small screens in a new sitcom, Terry and Julian, and in the cinemas with a small part (oo-er) in Carry On Columbus. Tom
Lappin poked around in his bedroom.
K, it’s only a hotel room and he’s only here for a couple ofdays, but somehow I’d expected more from Julian Clary’s bedroom. A tacky 50$ B-movie ﬂickers on the TV and an ever-so-slightly flamboyant flower arrangement decorates the bedside table, but isn’t this all a bit understated for
. the Prince of Camp, the High Priest of
dubious innuendo, the man with more mince than a Daily Record recipe book? Even the
much-thumbed copy of Hello doesn’t quite
lower the tone sufficiently.
The trouble is of course that the image has got out of control. Over the last couple of years Clary, on the strength of a couple of tacky low-budget TV game shows and regular touring, has become the latest media-friendly homosexual. He’s now the tabloid byword for effeminate, in the same way Boy George was before we learnt about his drug habit and his mates started to drop dead. Clary is amiably outrageous, the sort of personality your granny would find lovably cheeky and even the most unreconstructed Essex lad would probably admit to fancying. So it is something of an anti-climax to find him wearing rather shapeless pyjama trousers, puffing on a B and H and sipping tea. But what the hell, he can’t be a superstar all the time.
His latest project, Terry AndJulian, a sitcom for Channel 4, looks likely to keep his career on the comfortable plateau it has reached, without exactly pushing the Clary persona in any radical new directions. ‘It’s quite a simple set-up.’ he explains, ‘just me sharing a ﬂat with Terry, but for some reason it’s taken forever to write. about a year and a half. It turned out to be such a difficult thing to write a fully-fledged sitcom. With Sticky Moments we would just bang
‘CIary is amiany outrageous, the sort of
; personality your granny would find lovany
cheeky and even the most unreconstructed Essex lad would probably admitto tancying.’
them out — ten silly questions about sausages whatever, but with this we were suddenly in the world of plot and character development, light and shade, all that sort of thing. Very interesting though.’
‘We’ being Clary and his long-term writing partner Paul Merton (familiar wisecracking panellist and comedian). It’s an easy-going relationship, albeit not exactly prolific.
‘Paul is very fun to be with so it isn’t really
like working,’ says Clary. ‘He makes me laugh all the time so we mess around for an hour, do two minutes ofwriting then we have another hour off. I suppose, come to think ofit, that’s why it took so long to get it together. The original idea was that Terry was going to be played by Paul, so it was i really a case of having two very funny main ‘ characters but that didn’t quite work. We 3 were getting a gag followed by another gag constantly trying to top each other. So Terry is much more of a straight man now. I get . nearly all the funny lines.’
A much more satisfactory arrangement, at ; least from Clary’s point of view. Pity poor i Lee Simpson who has to play stooge to ; Clary’s outrage. The essential premise ofthe series is that wherever our Julian goes he spreads a little gayness and light on the drab lives of those he meets. ‘I wanted to expand the world I live in.’ he says, ‘although it’s a very fantastic world. In the first scene, Terry’s there talking to his girlfriend but as soon as I arrive the whole flat is transformed. Six painters and decorators arrive with me to make it into my kind of environment, and I take over Terry’s whole life.’
The show remains true to the Clary ethos of tackiness above all, but if it does have a subtext it is surely that camp extravagance is 3 far more interesting and entertaining than ! drab straightness. Clary has never been a ; crusader for gay rights, never bludgeoned ' his audiences with sexual politics, preferring to use the subtler weapons ofglamour and humour. The result though is a far-from-coy } espousal ofthe gay lifestyle and an unspoken
GThe List ll — 24 September 1992