I see all group social interaction through the lens of high school cliques and structures. I don’t think this is all that off-base a way to look at the world, since I don’t think many of us ever really make it past high school – either our best days were there or we still bear the psychic scars of our adolescence. Either you’re clinging to who you were in high school or running away from that person.
On the trip to London it was easy to see how everyone in the group fell into high school archetypes, and it only got easier on the final night, when a bunch of people stayed up all night and acted like a group of juniors on an overnight trip, drinking their first beers. Which is sort of delightful, I must admit.
But that was the second half of the night. The first half of that final night involved the Hot Fuzz gang, and the mysterious disappearance of Drew McWeeny.
Monday had been a free day; Tuesday was the visit to the set of His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass. Wednesday was the last full day of the trip, and began with a drive back to Shepperton Studios to see Inkheart in action. The visit ran a touch late, and when we got back to the hotel I predictably passed out for a couple of hours rather than finishing my urgent tourist business. I did wake up in time to make plans with Edgar Wright, who urged my little group – me, Drew and Dellamorte again – to get to their hotel ASAP, as Simon Pegg would be leaving around 8.
We cabbed it over (and I must say that the design of British cabs is delightful, especially with all the leg room in the back and the foldaway extra seats), and met up with the Edgar, Simon and Nick Frost – and Mrs. Simon and Mrs. Nick – at the bar of the Soho Hotel, a swanky place… but still the sort of place where a man will walk up to you while you are urinating and compliment you on your beard. Yikes.
Drinks were consumed and laughs were had. When we told the Fuzz boys about our many encounters with Jimmy, the face of London’s Down Syndrome campaign, Simon explained Joey Deacon to us. It seems that in 1981 the popular UK kid show Blue Peter wanted to do an episode about the handicapped, so they brought on a man with cerebral palsy, Joey Deacon. Children being the cruel bastards they are, “Joey” instantly became a schoolyard taunt meaning ‘retard’ or ‘spastic.’* This cleared up a previously mystifying joke from Spaced, by the way.
The gang had been doing press all day, but remained in high spirits. One of the things they had done earlier was a series of podcasts; the suits who set the thing up told them to run with the comedy, to bring the jokes, to just riff. But when they were asked to describe themselves in two words and Nick said, ‘Massive cunt’ the atmosphere changed.
It’s important to note here how much Drew and I loved London because of cunt (boy does that sound like it wouldn’t make his wife happy). The word is really one of the nastiest in America, but you can hear it everywhere, all the time, in London. Drew told me he counted a dozen uses of cunt on the streets when walking just a couple of blocks. God save the Queen.
Anyway, massive cunt talk soon turned into discussion of legal clearances. Drew had been dealing with getting names cleared in his Masters of Horror episodes, and Edgar had some very funny stories about getting legal clearance for Shaun of the Dead. Shaun’s character had originally had a last name, but it soon became apparent that having to clear a full name was more trouble than it was worth. But funnier was the fact that Universal’s legal department had come down on a joke in the text trivia track on the Shaun DVD. The final bit of trivia had been “Shaun of the Dead is based on a true story,” which legal didn’t like. Couldn’t they follow that up with “Just kidding!” they asked. Edgar said no way – that just isn’t funny. It’s also sort of baffling – who the fuck sits through Shaun of the Dead and thinks this was based on reality? You would imagine people would have heard about the zombie plague. Of course, Edgar was able to bring some nice logical kung-fu to Universal legal – the movie WAS based on a true story, as Ed and Shaun were based on themselves and their friends. Legal didn’t buy it.**
After a little while Drew had to leave – he was going to meet some Aint It Cool News readers. I never doubted Drew’s bravery before, but here he truly proved it – to sit in a pub surrounded by people shouting “First!” and “[Insert “hilarious” name here] gotta eat!” takes incredible stamina and fortitude.*** “I’ll be back,” Drew said… and then disappeared for the rest of the night. After a while I got worried – AICN has many enemies. What if Tom Rothman had sent his people to abduct Drew from the streets of London and extract his villainous revenge? Sadly, there was nothing I could, so I ordered some more beer. And then a plate of spaghetti.
Simon briefly took his leave, as expected (he and the missus went to see Just Jack, a British rapper – or “brapper,” as Simon called him) but returned for a night cap before getting food delivered to his room. Helen O’Hara, the sultry and sexy reviews editor for Empire Magazine, also joined us, and the drinks and laughs and nerdy talk (yes, Star Wars came up) continued until late in the night. Finally everybody had to go – there was another day of junketing for Hot Fuzz, and Dre and I had to leave for the airport at 7 in the morning. We parted ways with Team Fuzz, making vague threats to see them again in America.
Were I a smart man, my night would have ended here. It was midnight, and I had been out drinking for four hours already. I had had a great time, eaten my fill, and should have gone to sleep to be well rested for the trip. But when Dre and I came to the hotel (Drew: still missing), we saw that some of the other kids from the set visit were in the hotel bar, desperately trying to blow through their per diem with bottles of wine and champagne. Bottles which they just couldn’t finish. Again, it was cute.
Our high school social structure had taken a real hit earlier in the day when the reporters from JoBlo and Coming Soon – both very pretty girls – had left for Dublin on a personal side trip. These girls fit the cheerleader/prom queen slots in the group, but with JoBlo being the cheerleader who hangs out with the bad kids and goes to see Laser Floyd and drinks in the parking lot. Coming Soon is much more straight arrow (truly the perfect description for all their staff). They were gone, but the socializing wasn’t over. The MTV reporter, who was on her first group set visit (they usually got their own time on set) was there, as was “Lord Asriel” from HisDarkMaterials.org. The UGO reporter was hanging out, macking on this permmed and frosted New Jersey mallgirl he had met somewhere in London. She was a mortician, which was very awesome, because you don’t imagine the person who sucks your last meal from your dead stomach to look like she goes to TGI Fridays on a regular basis for their snacks.
The UGO reporter fit into the mold of the guy who is on the chess team and the track team –he plays both sides of the social fence and gets good grades. “Lord Asriel,” meanwhile, is the guy who is in the role playing club and the Model UN, who reads the Wall Street Journal front to back, and who also makes creepy jokes about animals and the dead because he wants to maintain a sense of edginess. You live in fear of the day he wears a black trenchcoat and sunglasses to school. MTV, who looks a bit like Amber Benson, is the kind of girl who ran the science fiction and fantasy club, got good grades, and liked British comedy… but was just a little straight laced. Unless… forgive the diversion, but I never quite figured out MTV, and I’ll use a story to illustrate:
We’re on the bus to Shepperton Studios, which is about an hour ride from the hotel. Drew and Dellamorte and I sit in the back, honoring Rosa Parks and earning the “Back of the Bus Boys” nickname, which sounds a lot like a gay porn. Over time we draw some other people to the back, including MTV and UGO, and we have a little chuckle patch. One of the jokes comes from the fact that “Lord Asriel”’s favorite movie is The Shawshank Redemption, and that leads to a new phrase for anal sex: My Tim Robbins wants to escape into your sewage tunnel****. We all laugh and laugh about this, having the mentalities of four year olds, but then MTV says, ‘If you use lines like that, you’ll never get anyone to have anal sex with you.’ Now, besides the fact that yes, you will, I’m fascinated by this response. Was MTV taking us seriously and thinking that on my next romantic date I would say, ‘Baby, I just want my Tim Robbins to escape into your sewage tunnel. I think Morgan Freeman is waiting for me in your colon.’? Or was she doing what I love to do to unsuspecting dopes – pretending to be very serious about something very stupid? If it’s the second, she totally gamed me, but I suspect that she just has a seriousness threshold that trips her up.
Anyway, that was the crew, and they were about six sheets to the wind when we got there. I promptly set to stirring the water – betting people that they would hook up, shouting suggestions to UGO and his Six Feet Under ladyfriend, and generally winding “Lord Asriel” up to unbelievable heights of wackiness. The kid is a wonderful self-clowning oven, but I began to have a change of heart about my usual satanic stuff – making subtle fun of him to his face, for example – when he showed himself to be very good humored. He proved this by taking some of my jokes and running with them – truly a sign of a refined sense of humor.
Pretty soon Quincy ME was grinding on UGO’s lap and making everybody just a little bit sick to our stomachs. I mean, they were engaged in big, wet sloppy kisses. More power to him, of course, but my poor eyes. Meanwhile MTV was in a Dellamorte/”Lord Asriel” sandwich, which I suspected was going nowhere, but I couldn’t help needling her about it. Sex was in the air, and not just emanating from UGO’s trousers – we had a French kid in our group who had long since gone to bed, but who had apparently been actually hounding after a three-way. I wish I had been there for that, if only to help escalate it into something truly embarrassing.
The whole scene in the hotel bar – which eventually ended up with two broken glasses, massive losses of dignity and “Lord Asriel” grinding against my buttocks (to be fair, he did it after I gave him a big front wedgie – is there a different term for a wedgie administered to the front of the underwear?) – seemed like it was on the verge of a spasmodic game of spin the bottle, but at some point the time just passed from Very Late to Far Too Fucking Late, and everybody kind of dispersed. I rode the elevator up with MTV and “Lord Asriel,” who conveniently “missed” his floor and rode up with MTV to her room.
Two hours later it was time to leave the hotel. Drew was downstairs waiting, limbs intact and no missing internal organs, and thankfully without “Welcome to the world of AIDS” scrawled on his mirror in lipstick. He had stumbled home directly from his meet-up and passed out in his clothes. Dellamorte joined us soon, but the real person we were waiting on was MTV. She had scored a ride to the airport from MTV Europe, and we were all hitching along. She showed up claiming that nothing had happened with “Lord Asriel” – they just talked! – but neither one of us collected on the two pound bet we had made about her hooking up with him.
And so draws to a close my trip to England. I slept the whole flight home, which is a miracle where I’m concerned, but being up for 27 hours and being jet lagged to hell will do that to you. I also ended up sleeping all day Saturday when I got home. Sorry to everyone who read this whole thing expecting more scandal, but I never talked to UGO after that night, so it’s quite probable that his Tim Robbins finally made his way into the sewage tunnel of that mortician. In fact, let’s print the legend and assume it did.
* When Simon told us about Joey Deacon, I pictured a kid in a wheelchair, but when I did some research on the guy – mostly trying to follow up Nick’s claims as to how he died (I have found that trusting anything Nick Frost says is trouble – he has the best deadpan I have ever encountered. He will say the wackiest shit completely straight. It’s amazing) – I saw that Joey Deacon was an old man when he was on Blue Peter. For some reason this troubled me; I could understand kids laughing at one of their own, but mocking a crippled old man feels extraordinarily cruel. I never imagined that any group of children could out-mean the New York City kids I grew up with, but the UK takes the cake!
** They also apparently nixed a Joey Deacon reference.
*** I am, of course, taking the piss. As they say in England. Which means, making fun of and not stealing the urine from.
**** "Sewage tunnel" turns into "poop tunnel" as we use the joke again and again over time, which is a bit too on the nose, I know.