Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Top Of My Head, Part VIII - All In The Best Possible Taste

My ability to continue writing this series of essays was rather circumscribed by a series of unfortunate events that commenced on 15th November 2012, and by the bilge they brought in their wake. It is unnecessary for me to say anything more about them than that all the individuals concerned receive my complete forgiveness. 

I had just left off at the point where I had suggested that the late and greatly loved British comedian and disc jockey Kenny Everett (born Maurice James Christopher Cole) had suffered from a form of Tourette Syndrome. To the best of my knowledge and belief Kenny Everett has many relatives still living, and it is therefore with a measure of trepidation that I approach this essay, as I would never wish to be perceived as trying to intrude on their privacy; having recently had a bellyful of that myself, I know how unpleasant that can be. I am of that generation of British people who always smile whenever they hear the name 'Kenny Everett', and they can be assured that I approach this exercise with the greatest affection for his work, and the greatest respect for his memory. 

Although his TV recordings display no obvious tics or involuntary movements, 'The Unforgettable Kenny Everett', an ITV documentary that was made in 2000 and broadcast again on that network last year, contained so many pointers of some kind of underlying dopamine dysfunction I had trouble recording them all.

He was, of course, best known for so-called 'zaniness', one of the more common markers of a Tourettic sense of humour. 

He seemed to display some acute obsessive-compulsive tendencies, with the film highlighting what certainly seemed to be an incredible obsessiveness regarding cleanliness; he kept a stockpile of up to six months' worth of cleaning materials in his house at any one time, against which my own obsession with always keeping a full bottle of washing up liquid and an unused pair of rubber gloves under the sink pales into comparison. 

He may have had a distorted relationship with the space around him, perhaps of the type described in my previous essays on Peter the Great and Tiberius, for he seemed to derive not only pleasure but also great peace from going hillwalking.

(On that point, my own  view is that obsessive cleaning of the type Kenny Everett engaged in, very common in all neuropsychiatric disorders, might also be an expression of that same distorted relationship with space, the only difference between its manifestations in the various disorders being the radius of space within which the sufferer feels comfortable. It could be the case that more Parkinsonian sufferers find their wellbeing enhanced when the radius is a large one, such as when they are in the hills or on the ocean, while the more Tourettic have a much smaller radius, and thus feel a much greater need to keep that tight radius habitable, expressing that need by constantly cleaning it. I have met a Tourettist whose radius of comfort might be skin-tight; they indicated that they feel extremely uncomfortable when wearing normal trousers, and overcome that unpleasant feeling by wearing looser jogging clothes instead). 

Although a naturally witty and creative person, he may have had a creative 'kinetic melody' of his own, a creative activity from which he derived a peace which he could find in nothing else; the creation of radio jingles. He apparently spent hour upon hour of his life creating jingles, and seemed to have loved doing it. A jingle by Kenny Everett was as recognisably his work as the 'David' is the work of Michelangelo, or 'Fidelio' the work of Beethoven. They were so personal, so obviously his work, that I think they might just have been those creations the sheer joy of creating which made all the world's troubles disappear. 

And it's hard to see how someone who got himself sacked from radio jobs at least twice for making inappropriate off the cuff remarks on air (including making the absolute incredible suggestion that the Minister for Transport's wife had only passed her driving test because she had bribed the examiner), and who appeared on a platform at a Conservative Party conference during the Cold War and shouted 'Let's Bomb Russia!' and 'Let's kick Michael Foot's stick away!', did not have a speech impulse control problem of a type that's not at all uncommon in Tourette Syndrome; not coprolalia, involuntary swearing, but just saying the first thing that comes into your head, whatever that might be. 

He also may have had an anatomical marker, to which I'll be referring later this evening. 

As with all these essays, this is all, of course, hypothesis. None of it is intended to, so should not be used to, detract anything from the memory of a very, very funny man. 

For there is one aspect of Kenny Everett's life which marks him, a physically small man, as standing head and shoulders as a man above all the Emperors and Tsars described in previous essays, and that is the affection in which he was held, is held and, by very many of those who saw him, will always be held. When you heard the name of Peter the Great, you quaked with fear; when you heard the name Kenny Everett, you quaked with laughter. He is a beacon for all those of us who suffer from dopamine dysfunction disorders that we owe it to ourselves not to surrender to our demons, for, if I am correct, in Kenny Everett we might just have the best of all possible role models to show what happiness we can bring. 

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