Thursday, 14 May 2015

Reviewed: 1990 Melbourne Demons Celebrity Variety Concert

In the highly competitive world of YouTube, the Costa Sports channel has quickly shot to favouritism for this year's NAB Rising Star award. First we got the 41 minute promo video for the 1987 Brisbane Bears which made it sound like a solvent enterprise with a glorious future, now this - a production so startlingly ill-conceived that several people involved may take out injunctions to try and have it removed from the internet. It's the...

Please note: In the realm of 'Demons Celebrity Variety Concerts' this isn't the one that featured Jazzy O, a raffle, and live on stage activities so if you're into that sort of thing move along.

At least we had a win the day before so there wouldn't have been fans using primitive internet newsgroups to whinge about how players should concentrate on footy instead of engaging in vaudeville. I'm highly skeptical that it was really held on a Sunday, surely everyone had real jobs to go to the next day?

The first 'celebrity' appears to be Nathan Buckley singing a karaoke version of John Farnham's Take The Pressure Down whilst engaging in frottage with the original Solid Brown Dancers. As far as the sort of performance you get when you can't afford John Farnham it was at least better than David Thai on Pot Luck. My poor memories of the 1990 season will be exposed when somebody tells me this was our third string ruckman - but I'd turned nine two weeks before so get stuffed.

It doesn't appear that this spectacular was broadcast anywhere, so the question is whether the video was produced for sale in the predecessor to the Demon Shop, or whether like a homemade sex tape it was only intended for private viewing but leaked onto the internet.

To lukewarm applause your host - and 25 years later a wedding celebrant - Greg Evans does the standard "is it getting hot in here" act to imply he'd like to fornicate with one or more of the dancers and then follows by suggesting "that sort of stuff" "gets the blood pressure up" rather than taking it down. "If you thought that was good" he says, "that's just a taste of some of the magnificent talent we've got for you tonight". Not sure if talking about song and dance routines or hornbags in leotards but we're about to find out.

After implying that the Febey twins are still half-cut from over-celebrating their birthday the night before (which is indeed, 19 August) he does some confusing 'of its time' joke about Jamie Duursma's sock which raises some knowing laughs from the audience before his next gag falls flat on its face and he says "ah a lone clapper, or is that a nudist sitting down at the back?" To confirm it was the 90s, the first segment of entertainment for the night was a list of the top seven comments made by 'Italian porn queen' Ilona Staller when she made love to Saddam Hussein. I won't ruin them for you in case you dare to watch the entire video but suffice to say it gets a bit racial (much to the disinterest of the crowd) until he wraps up with a dutch oven gag which gets the audience back in the palm of his hand.

I'm not sure why anyone would want to get involved in the show at this point, but Jo Pearson had obviously already cashed her cheque because she turns up late to co-host. If I was her I'd have legged it. Apparently this is being filmed at the Southern Cross Hotel, which was bulldozed shortly after. Some ticketholders may have wished for a wrecking ball to go through the place before this was over.

The best we get early from the Evans/Pearson combination is ribald comedy about being screwed by Channel 9 executives. The audience microphones might have been turned down at this point, because nine minutes in people have lost interest and Jo is wearing the sort of look people get when they sit on a thumbtack. Greg takes this as an opportunity to do more gags implying she's a keen rooter.

Greg alleges that Chris Connolly is responsible for much of the material in this show, but I think the jokes implying Jo Pearson was hot to trot were pure Evans.

First on stage are the Major Reconstruction Quartet (Stuart Clark, Trevor Spencer, Connolly and some bloke who is possible Jamie Duursma wearing Sean Wight's jumper because Sean obviously told them to piss off) with a ditty entitled "I've Done Me Knee" to the tune of Let It Be - ensuring the song-writing credit would go to the unlikely trio of McCartney/Lennon/Connolly.

It's about as tuneful as you'd expect from footy players doing Beatles covers, highlighted by Spencer forgetting the words halfway through. There's 2hrs, 22 minutes of this sort of excitement to go - and a good few minutes of it are then wasted by bringing a proper entertainer on to sing a song. Bugger that, I want Brent Heaver dressed like he's in Motley Crue. Or a comedy skit where all stereotypes about us being toffs are confirmed when Joan Kirner is referred to as 'Mother Russia' before our latest international recruiting coup is discussed,

Featuring a sensitive portrayal of international accents with the same subtitles they used to have on Hey Hey It's Saturday

And a Brisbane Bears gag which surely much to the chagrin of Greg Evans got the biggest laughs of the evening.

What any of this had to do with the alleged comedy skit taking place I'm not entirely sure, but they had 150 minutes to fill and an audience who had nothing to do but drink cans so I'm sure it made sense to somebody. The lion tamer then dons the MFC jumper and offers a footy to a group of vicious animals. In the #fistedforever era they'd have eaten him alive.

This is followed by a bemused Russian with shocking Soviet chompers being implored to yell 'COME ON DEMONS' for the benefit of the capitalist swine in the audience.

And he's not the only member of the Politburo to get involved:

But no footage of Josip Broz Tito brokering us drafting Allen Jakovich.

After some brief chat about the raffle (reminder: not that raffle) they mention a performance by Kylie Minogue at this very event four years ago - and as they're committed to introducing new talent here's another guy that's going to go far. He's a factory worker who likes to sing in the shower and it's his first appearance on stage - your friend and mine Ron Humphries.

It was also possibly his last time on stage, but if it's any consolation later that night he won the Percy Jones lookalike contest. But whatever he was singing it was far less offensive than the feral shirt worn by Shane Bourne for his stand-up set:

Riding high on his success doing the Great Australian Joke on Hey Hey he does the same routine that he would at the Burvale on a Friday night, calling the crowd 'thrillseekers' about 37 times, without bothering to thrown in any custom footy gags for the occasion - but there was a quality joke about a leper having an argument that I won't spoil for you. He also implies that Ossie Ostrich has crabs and has one with the punchline "I love your tits but where do you want the venetians?"

What's happened to the footy players? Surely we're going to see one or more of them in drag before all this is said and done. During the comedy routine they cut to Sean Wight in the crowd as proof that he is there but just had no interest in mocking his season ending knee injury in the opening skit.

Bourney finally racks off after eight minutes and is replaced by extended highlights of the Round 16 win at Windy Hill to the tune of Show No Mercy by Mark Williams (sadly not the one who choked himself with a tie).

Now here's an all-star gathering,

Neil Mitchell, before he gave up and took to endlessly potting us on the radio, interviewing an all-star cast of the late great Robbie Flower, Ronald Dale and pre-stardom Todd Viney. They go to questions submitted by 'the audience and Chris Connolly', which are far more likely to make sense than any of the bollocks Neil's likely to serve up then or now.

Stuff the questions, how about Tulip's shirt? He also points out that "this is supposed to be a humorous segment" as if to highlight what a humorless debacle it has become under Neil's stewardship.

Todd Viney then answers a question about whether players should have sex before games by revealing he usually keeps it in his pants on matchday but his girlfriend recently visited from South Australia and... well that's not where Jack come from but at least it saved the panel segment from disaster. It is then revealed that Todd was Ron Barassi's tennis coach, which must have been an amazing apprenticeship for his later adventures with the Phillipoussis camp.

We then get some serious chat about Ron doing recorded motivational speeches for Australians being held hostage by Iraqi forces in Kuwait, which brings the mood down until Flower gets a few laughs by recalling the time Mark Jackson clocked him during a practice game then chucked a brick at Slug Jordon. If I was in the crowd I'd have started drinking like a fish to get through with this - get back to the Connolly penned parody numbers and players dressed as Cher.

One bearded ex-fan out, one in as Derryn delivers the '1990 Demons Shame File' with some Mitchell-esque flat zingers about Greg Healy, Brett Lovett, John Northey, Garry Lyon, Darren Bennett, Rod Grinter and Tony Campbell. The crowd went mild. Thanks for your contribution Derryn, still bitter after having $5k on us to make the finals in 1981 only to see one win.

"How do you pick the New Zealander in a shoe store?" he asks, knowing full well that he was born there so even in 1990 before racism was invented he could say anything and not get in trouble. "He's the one with the erection in front of the ugg boots". Who said vaudeville was dead?

Because Allen Jakovich's Trial By Video hadn't been formed yet, the next musical performance was by Jim Keays and a bootleg version of his real band called the 'Masters of Everything'. Then something (possibly involving the raffle) is brutally cut from the tape so we can go to Greg Evans and Ricky Jackson playing pissed and doing a better job than Trevor Spencer by not forgetting their lines until at least halfway through the skit...

... which was because they whipped out the script halfway through and started reading their "Top 10 reasons beer is better than women" list off it - highlighted by #1 "You don't have to wash a beer before it tastes good". Welcome to the progressive 90s - ladies, bring a plate.

Now we're talking!

Unfortunately it's comedy maestro Connolly doing a Swooper impersonation instead of the great man himself, but he does have the look right and does a good knife in the back gag so that's something:

And god bless them here comes the cross-dressing, with Matthew Febey self-conciously appearing as "Jennifer High As A Keyte" and being described as "coming in like John Wayne without the horse" which may or may not have been a reference to certain urban legends popular at the time.

Plus Stephen Newport as Clive Robertson, who isn't a woman in the media so it doesn't end up implied that he's slept with everyone in the industry.

Newport breaks character briefly to wrap up a gag about umpire Peter Cameron being murdered by saying "I'm glad he's dead", which would cost you about $20,000 these days. "Jennifer" then reports that Terry Wallace is going to sue god because "It's his fault the way I turned out and I demand to be compensated" which seems to absolve Rod Grinter of any blame for caving his head in. There's also gags implying Irish people are stupid, Western Australians copulate with sheep and Tasmanians are keen on incest.

Considering how much of the show is being put together by people who work on Hey Hey It's Saturday they sure like ripping off Steve Vizard (who was ripping David Letterman off, but nobody knew that at the time) and we're treated to our third countdown list of the evening. This one is slightly more relevant in that it's the top seven things Melbourne members will hear in the year 2000. If #1 isn't "GET FUCKED MICHAEL LONG" I'll be disappointed. I'm really not causing you to miss out on anything by listing the answers here - as delivered by the other Febey in a shirt even Shane Bourne would reject as too garish:

7 - "Have you heard Andy Lovell is still a virgin?" (No, and nobody gives a shit since we traded him five years ago)
6 - "Is it true John Northey turned gay and ran off with a West Coast trainer?" (No, but he did run off with Richmond)
5 - "Is it true Earl Spalding got Derryn Hinch pissed and put him on his own shame file?" (Any danger somebody in this list didn't end up at another club?)
4 - "Don't tell me Collingwood still haven't won another premiership" (and look what happened six weeks later, good work dickheads)
3 - "What great news, Rod Grinter won the Brownlow. He beat Terry Wallace on a countback on a TKO" (God only knows what the last bit meant but the crowd went wild for the suggestion of Grinter lifting the medal)
2 - "Yes, Michael Shildberger still plays in the Mini League" (In the year 2000 nobody knows what either of those things are)
1 - "Yes, Brian Wilson retires again". (And much like goading the Pies into a flag thanks for summoning him up to kick six against us for St Kilda in '91 before retiring again)

Just when you thought you'd had enough topical Beatles related entertainment with that knee injury sketch here they are again - featuring Earl Spalding wearing sunglasses so he can't be identified later, Rod Keogh, Brett Lovett looking like he wants to kill himself and Jamie Duursma again who must just love this stuff.

There mustn't have been time to write a footy related parody so they just sing a horrendous version of Can't Buy Me Love while all staring at the lyrics taped on the floor. Only more transvestism or jokes about Jo Pearson being keen on flange can save this production. Clive Newport being the Beatlemania segment to a tasteful end by shooting Earl Spalding/John Lennon in the back.

Unfortunately this brings out the very popular Rod Grinter dressed as Superman, and at this point I wish they'd go back to doing Soviet jokes. It should be noted that there's one hour and two minutes left in the show.

Would anyone really pay for this video later? It would be one thing to sit in the crowd necking a slab until anything was funny but the idea of sitting down, slapping the tape into your VHS and enjoying a hilarious night on the couch watching John Northey impersonations and low grade professional musical acts is outrageous.

And now the event that we've all been waiting for. There was no way that a 1990 gathering of footballers would not include at least one person impersonating Cher in her knickers. Arise David Flintoff, you were truly the man for the job. And several others. Considering he was Garry Lyon's cousin it's concerning how much more he looks like Gaz in a frilly wig and suspenders.

As we hang shit on the early 90's let's not forget that this sort of thing was still being trotted out as comedy gold in Footy Show Grand Final revues until about two years ago. At least on those shows the player in question didn't go around the audience thrusting his barely concealed penis in the face of paying guests.

Hold on a minute, that's actually is Garry Lyon and not Flintoff. How long until this clip is lifted without any attribution and played ad nauseum on the Footy Show?

Just in case you were confused - and I really was for a while - 'Northey' informs us "It's really Garry Lyon dressed in drag!". There I was thinking Cher had let herself go and lowered her price to suit an occasion being held at the Southern Cross Hotel.

For some reason Rob Gell and Rosemary Margan are played by themselves rather than by Robert Hickmott and Danny Seow in a sequinned gown. In an early 'Banner Watch' segment a run-through with a map of Australia is hoisted behind them, and you knew you were in trouble here when the first line was "And now a look at Howat it all began". Because, you see his name is John Howat yeah?

The weather's really been"Eishold" in some places and some parents have had to put their kids in bed and "Zantuck 'em up for the night". If you were unkind you'd suggest this segment was failing to "Gell" but as a Demons man from way back he was probably working cheap. "Up Northey" it hasn't been so bad, you "won't need a Spencer" (just like our side today). Another opportunity is taken to suggest Tasmanians have two heads and enjoying sheep worrying.

"Stretching" in from the west the weather is "Obstaloutely beautiful" FFS and while "white pointers have been seen at a nudist beach" that appeared to be a simple dick joke rather than a player reference. I take it Earl Spalding's wife was called Michelle because when they called him the 'Fremantle Doctor' this was followed by "there's some concern that the doctor is heading to Mount Michelle".

They also suggest Darren Bennett has "had about eight inches" which is controversial. Then the Irish become the third ethnic group of the evening to be accused of having sex with sheep. Once the ethnic humour is out of the way we get the Grinter footage we all wanted to see, him punching some Richmond jabroni in the guts.

I suspect these highlights packages were added later - and nobody paid for the rights to use the obscure AC/DC song - to try and pump up the VHS sales of the event. Makes sense, nobody was going to pay to see Gary Lyon's barely concealed dong. Meanwhile forget the kid punting the Dees home at Carrara, how about the jumper on the right?

I wish they'd dedicated the last 40 minutes to the best knitwear seen on the terraces this year but instead Wilbur Wilde is rolled in to do his Hey Hey saxophone schtick. You can't make instrumental gags about Terry Wallace so I saved myself a few minutes and skipped this bit. Much more enjoyable despite the lack of koala jumpers was the Mike Brady voiced "You give me Febey" parody to the tune of Fever which followed - and featured him mystifyingly depicted as a ninja turtle.

And just a reminder in case you'd forgotten that Tasmanians are two headed:

Greg then tries to flog the video of the evening to the crowd, most of whom are probably so pissed they'll buy anything. Would have done more sales if they could have worked another couple of sheep shagging and incest gags into the Febey bit.

Mercifully for those of us trying to get through this whole thing they then waste about 15 minutes on serious musical acts before bringing Hinch back for another gag reel where he highlights a quality member of the Subiaco crowd complaining about an umpiring decision with a baby hanging off her left norg.

There's 20 minutes left and I think I can get through to the end without having to resort to hard drugs - even when the next few minutes are taken up with club President Stuart Spencer playing the jauntiest piano you will ever see in your life. There's no point showing a screenshot because it can't possible tell the tale of how much he was getting into it. Not exactly convincing me to buy the tape though. Jim Stynes then takes a break from smashing the competition to show up in a flat cap and play the theme from the Pink Panther, as anyone in the crowd who had filled in the form to buy a copy frantically tried to cancel their credit card before it could be charged.

I think we're on the downhill slope here, I feel there's not going to be any more Connolly gold. We do, however, get the singing all-stars doing Amazing Grace which is nice if you're into spiritual tunes but complete wank if you're holding out for Jay Viney doing a Bob Hawke impersonation. Regrettably that's it for 'entertainment'. Not one last Tasmanian joke, which is disappointing but I think we got enough to answer most of the questions we had about the last century.

We also get the only image in existence of Mathew Mahoney, Glenn Lovett and Andy Lovell arm in arm which makes this as a true collectors item.

And with that all that there is left to say is...

The verdict - A complete travesty. 5 stars.

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