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Gore Vidal January 11, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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What a git. Well, no. That’s not strictly true. I mean, I like Myra as much as the next man, and old Gore’s definitely got a way with words. But what’s this about never missing an opportunity to have sex or appear on TV? OK, again, I concede, he might be onto something with that sex idea. Sex has definitely caught on. But TV? Overrated.

I am unproud to say that as of however-long-it-takes-some-German-youngsters-to-get-their-act-together, both the Russian and I will have embarked upon our TV careers and from the way he describes his experience so far, I think it looks as we’ve both been well and truly verarsched (fucked over in the vernacular). The phone rang last week and a young man with a handsome voice who sounded as if he’d just been doing something healthy like playing badminton and who’d clearly never done anything naughty in his life asked for the Russian. I then witnessed the Russian squirm politely on the phone as the disembodied voice exuding health listed his demands. If I may be allowed to conjecture a third party version of how the phone call went, in translation, I think it was a-something like this…

“Um, hello, Russian?”

“Yes…” (shudder, squirm)

“It’s me, healthy, young, happy TV-programme-maker with a perfect complexion. Would you mind if I made about a million fairly unreasonable demands of you, occupied all your time for, say, the next month-and-a-half and didn’t pay you anything at all into the bargain and, oh, could we also go out for dinner, not on me, at somewhere of my choosing to discuss it all?”

“Yes, that sounds very reasonable.” (shudder, squirm)

“Well, here’s our pitch. We want to make a documentary about two students. One, our friend, perfectly happy, 21-year-old, healthy, fine-fettle, badminton-playing girl who gets a BAföG (grant) and only 2000 euros a month from her parents to live on. The thing is, she sometimes has to work – one minute a week in a café – so we want to show what a hard life she has and explain why it is she needs 37 years to get her degree in crochet.”

“Oh yes, I can quite see that. Yes.” (squirm)

“And we thought we’d like to compare her very tough life with some foreign wanker student who has it easy. Erm, with you, actually.”

“Oh, yes, that’s an awfully good idea.” (shudder, squirm, shudder)

“Good. Well, it’ll be very straightforward, and we’ll just want to interview you for about 23 hours a day for about 14 days running in Spandau, but that’ll be it and I definitely won’t ring you again tomorrow and e-mail you thirty times a day with another million unreasonable demands just in case we get some other really good ideas into our head. Is that OK? Sorry, I can’t talk long. I’ve got to go and play badminton.”

“Erm, yes, OK. The thing is…” (blush, shudder, blush, squirm)

“Oh, I don’t think that should matter.”

“Erm, yes, I’m sure you’re right, but the thing is, I’m actually a foreign student and that means I’m not entitled to any grants and I’m only allowed to work for a limited number of days a year and…” (squirm, squirm)

“Yes, but you are a wanker though, aren’t you? I mean, in comparison to Pippi?”

“Well, yes, I suppose so, but, erm, aren’t we slightly skewing events if we claim that Pippi, who does actually have her own helicopter, has rather a struggle of it whereas I would have to struggle quite a lot harder to make ends meet than I already do were it not for my incredibly kind and generous and altruistic and selfless beloved?” (blush, blush)

“Oh, I don’t think we need to let the truth get in the way of our point of view, do you, Russian?”

“Erm, no, I suppose not.” (shudder)

“OK, I’ll ring tomorrow at 4am to arrange our next inconvenient appointment.”

Which is rather how things seem to be when you let TV folk into your life. I’ve made the same mistake myself. Last year, I agreed to take part in a French TV programme being shot in Berlin where Europeans from different countries sat around and talked about something or other. I happened to be in the environment programme. I know nothing about the environment but was grilled for hours on end and by various media – phone, e-mail, mobile – by some adolescent office-girl from Paris. Having worried myself into paroxysms of fear for weeks beforehand, it all passed off boringly and uninterestingly enough but did I get my complimentary video of the show after it had been aired? Did I buggery! And pain-in-the-arse office-girl even rang me weeks later, I thought to thank me, but in fact to ask if I could recommend folk to appear on the London show. Honestly, give these TV folk an inch and they’ll bleed you dry. (Unless, of course, it all leads to something marvellous and the Russian gets talent-scouted and he gets whisked to Hollywood and we all live happily… or something like that.)

Comments»

1. I hate my neighbours - January 12, 2006

Last year, I agreed to take part in a French TV programme being shot in Berlin where Europeans from different countries sat around and talked about something or other.

Sounds a bit like arte. Or France 2?

2. leon - January 12, 2006

My mother once said she found Gore Vidal quite attractive.

3. I hate my neighbours - January 12, 2006

She would have herself have had to have been a) very very attractive or b) very very unattractive (as a woman) to have much of a chance though, surely? But I suppose she didn’t start stalking him, did she.

Which reminds me of a carpet manafacturer.

4. BiB - January 12, 2006

It was France 5, which I temporarily mistook for the (far better known) TV5. I expected the phone to be hot with offers for a new career on French TV, or at least to be heaped with praise by acquaintances in France, but not a sausage.

Presuming Gore swings both ways, if he’s true to his word about never missing an opportunity, then she might be in with a chance after all.

Stalking carpet manufacturers? From Baghdad?

5. I hate my neighbours - January 12, 2006

France 5? Ah, arte tagsüber, the “educational” channel which started out as “job tv” or something French like la chaîne de l’émploi. GCSE French learnt by watching the telé. It’s all coming back to me now.

6. I hate my neighbours - January 12, 2006

TV5 make no programmes except for the news, if that.

They won’t catch you out again. How did they find you in the first place?

As opposed to arte, I suppose this pan-European discussion round was at least all in one language.

7. BiB - January 12, 2006

IHMN, has your glittering translation career begun yet, or did I stump you with boring info and you fell at the first hurdle? (Good for you, if so. I am struggling to even do a perfectly nice translation at the mo.)

The reason I ask is that one gets put on lists offering translation jobs. The cunning parasites from France 5 advertised their need on said list, so I presumed it was considered work and would be for money. (I’m all for helping people free of charge, but a TV channel hardly seemed like a good cause.) I only realised it was ‘voluntary’ when I was in up to my neck.

The whole thing was done in French. I thought I would have the double humiliation of speaking my rusty French with words of Russian and German thrown in for good measure but, to my relief, there was someone who spoke worse than me there and once I knew I wasn’t the worst, I was instantly at ease. It’s dog-eat-dog in the getting-exploited-by-TV world, I can tell you.

One almost amusing thing was that on day 2 – yes, 2 days! – of ‘shooting’, I was in a round-table discussion about the environment with the head of Greenpeace, or someone equally important, in Germany. Just a touch embarrassing as I very professionally said something along the lines of, “Yes, recycling is good.” The shame! The shame!

8. I hate my neighbours - January 12, 2006

No, I got stumped at the first hurdle by coming to Germany to study, which means, as I am under 45, that I haven’t completed anything meaningful education-wise (unless you count a TEFL Certificate, which of course one doesn’t) since doing my A-levels. I did mean to get back to you on that actually.

French state television didn’t pay you?!

Oh well. At least a trip to Paris (and somewhere to sleep – though one is free to sleep under a bridge, I seem to remember once being the case) was included.

And they haven’t asked you back?

Before I forget, you did type recently (over at the ex- or non- or still-are-booksellers) that Mülltrennung (the phrase) confused you. That might explain the Greenpeace difficulty above.

9. BiB - January 12, 2006

Nein, nein, not even a trip to Paris. Day one was on a freezing summer’s evening in the Cafe am Neuen See, or whatever that second-rate beer-garden (in comparison to Prater) in the Tiergarten is called (but which, at least, isn’t the Schleusenkrug) and day two was at ufaFabrik. They didn’t even pay my fare there and back – admittedly not much – but did heroically buy us participants complimentary drinks. And no, no repeat invitation. Not even a Christmas card. Les salauds.

It was the Mitropa that really stumped me over at the (still current) booksellers’ (officially, but really bookseller’s) place. I’ve googled and wikkied galore since then and feel fully informed now. But aren’t you too young to have witnessed all this yourself, or are there unaccounted-for years between the 18 on the edge of the District line – east or west? I’m guessing east at the mention of Basildon – and the seven in Berlin?

10. I hate my neighbours - January 13, 2006

Well the Mitropa were still around about 2 years ago. Since then, though, it’s all become sandwiches and coffee, not that I could have ever afforded anything else. As I said somewhere else, the Hungarians still run proper restaurants on their EC trains.

I take it back, the “M-Team” (the Mitropa propaganda mag) (see here: http://www.nadir.org/nadir/periodika/jungle_world/_98/37/30b.htm ) disappeared in around 1998, and Mitropa as part of the Bahn not too long afterwards. But they still run the amusingly (?) names “Alles Wurscht” sausage shops, e.g. at Ostbahnhof, or the boringly named “Kiosk” at U-Warschauer.

I can even remember InterRegios. No years unaccounted for by the way, and east was right.

11. BiB - January 13, 2006

While we’re on trains, and while I’m avoiding work at 3.22am, you give me an excuse to rave about the marvellous restaurants on Russian trains. Don’t know if they’ve got a name, per se, but if you and Leon make it to Kantgrad, be sure to go on a Russian train. The whole event is wonderful, from being barked at about bed linen to the tea with lemon being passed around in surprisingly fancy cups in the morning to the wonderful, wonderful on-board restaurants. Not only is the food actually good and homely and stodgy and comforting but there are frilly curtains and the works. You’ll be sad you’re not going a lot further…

12. I hate my neighbours - January 13, 2006

I have occasionally been at Bahnhof Lichtenberg at the right time of an evening and seen these Kurswagen (I doubt if there’s a word – one word – for that in English), each carriage belonging to a different rail company, each one going somewhere else, each door being watched over by a staff member in a different uniform, and thought, “how about getting in and hiding in the toilet for the next 40 hours?”. A stupid thought, obviously, as the large eastern European women won’t let you on without a ticket.

13. BiB - October 16, 2006

You can go to Ukraine these days without a visa, so that seems like the easiest Berlin-Soviet Union train-trip. Not long enough to really immerse yourself in train-culture, though.


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