GOING OFF ALARMING BY DANNY BAKER
I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of Danny Baker but the sight of my husband absolutely shaking with mirth whilst reading the second volume of his autobiography was enough to convince me to get reading it myself. Boy, I’m glad I did!
Danny Baker is best known for his work on TV shows, for hosting football phone-ins on the radio, for being the star of the “Daz Doorstep Challenge” adverts and for being temporary tabloid fodder for his mid-1990s hijinks with Chris Evans and Paul Gascoigne. He has worked with all the comedy greats – Ken Dodd, Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan, “a self-lacerating” Frankie Howard and has great yarns to spin from all of these meetings. Keeping a furious Kenneth Williams waiting and then later on name-dropping the Carry-On star to buy his first house is particularly cracking material.
It’s hard to suck up that Baker is one of life’s lucky blighters who always come up smelling of roses. He has walked between the raindrops (a chapter heading here) and led a charmed life. But this is what sets his story apart from the run of the mill celebrity biographies clogging up supermarket bookshelves. There is no rags to riches, no point at where it all went wrong. Instead this is the story of an original Cockney boy getting away with it over and over again.
His is not an autobiography in the traditional sense. There is very little “I did this, I did that” going on here. Baker is far too clever for that. A natural and endearing raconteur, his amazing career twists and turns are merely squeezed in between hilarious and often unbelievable anecdotes. His recollections of Davey The Dwarf and the Rag and Bone Man story are particular favourites of mine. Even funnier and incredulous than volume one, I warmed to the witty wordplay and life experience of this writer and broadcaster. (Although I still find him a very smug and bumptious personality!)
However, just like his first book, Going To Sea In A Sieve, the star of the show is not the man himself but most definitely his docker father known as ‘Spud.’ An absolute character of a man with wheeling and dealing ways, a brazen attitude towards authority and financial affairs and a firm belief that everyone can be bribed, claiming; “they’ve all got their hand out.” I was choking on my own stifled guffaws on a train through West Sussex as Baker described in perfect detail Spud’s Sunday routine of elaborate ablutions and preparing the cockles for tea. Even the title of the book, Going Off Alarming, is one of Spud’s favoured phrases for describing an uproar or huge fuss. Other classic ‘Spud-isms’ include telling the family’s pet lizard to “liven it’s fucking ideas up,” and when offered tea, the Scotch drinker would always reply; “well, if there’s nothing stronger knocking about.” His roughing up of comedian Harry Enfield in a backstage Green Room makes for much hilarity. Indeed he was never overcome by celebrities or the business of show; “the trouble with your game is there’s not enough right-handers being dished out.” A brilliant man, brilliantly encapsulated by his son.
Best supporting role must go to the Baker family’s rescue mutt, Twizzle; “not so much a dog as a missile.” His attempts to overthrow the house and his near death experiences hanging from trees, gates, fences and the lounge blinds are exceptionally written pieces of real life comedy. So many things these days are described as “laugh out loud” when they’re no more than a whimper or a chuckle. Danny Baker’s tales, particularly featuring the loveable rogue Twizzle, are true side-splitters. I had to keep resting between paragraphs, such was the onslaught of funnies.
A thoroughly enjoyable book. I look forward to his third. I leave you here with one of his maxims on financial matters. A clue as to the why he ended up borrowing £30,000 off Chris Evans – that story to be continued….!
SOUTHSEA BOOKWORM RATING: 8/10 (marks deducted for being Millwall, I’m Pompey!)
More Danny Baker:
- His first job in radio was at GLR – his producer was a very young and talented Chris Evans. Now lifelong friends
- On being pals with England footballer Gazza; “going out with Paul Gascoigne was like taking to the town with a case full of wet dynamite.”
- Born 22 June 1957 in Deptford, South London