More Heroic Failures
Here are some more amusing examples of how to fail with real elan…
In March 1993 a mugger approached Roger Morse of Winnipeg. Canada, and shouted “Give me your wallet”.
Thus far it was a completely traditional mugging transaction after which the mugger stole C$20. What was much less traditional was that Morse himself next shouted “Give me my wallet back” to the mugger. We were now entering uncharted and highly experimental waters.
Stunned by this unorthodox request, the mugger handed over his own wallet by mistake and fled the scene of the crime, leaving his victim C$250 better off.
On a sunny October morning in 1995 a young man was lurking suspiciously outside a Dublin branch of the Allied Irish bank when a security guard walked out with a case full of money.
Suddenly the young man shouted, pulled a gun. seized the money and leapt onto a getaway motorbike that roared up driven by an accomplice.
As they veered off into traffic, only one man acted. A passing van driver saw the whole thing and reversed his Renault into the escaping motorbike. The two villains were thrown onto the bonnet of a nearby car. They stood up and stared at the van driver, aghast and disbelieving. Aghast and disbelieving also were the director, the sound man, the cameraman and everyone connected with Crimeline. the hugely popular Irish TV programme, which was reconstructing an earlier robbery to help police solve it.
The top male fragrance for people of our tastes is the exquisite Ieuan No 14. In 1995 the perfume company L’Essential decided to launch a new line of aftershave. Boldly, it was named after Ieuan Evans, the Welsh rugby international winger. It was withdrawn after selling only 30 bottles because women did not want their menfolk smelling like a rugby player.
This is now the most exclusive fragrance in the world as only 30 people on the planet walk round smelling of it. It is extremely difficult to get hold of.
“I do have a few bottles of the stuff;” Evanswrote in his memoirs, so you might have to get some from him.
In the 1994 Danish general election Jacob Haugaard stood for parliament as a joke. His manifesto included free beer, nicer Christmas gifts, more Renaissance furniture in Ikea. Nutella in all army field rations, continuous green traffic lights, the introduction of several whales into Randers fjord, the right to impotency, a tail wind on all cycle paths and the reclassification of people without a sense of humour as disabled. To support his candidacy he wrote a book entitled ‘If Work is Healthy Give it to the Sick’.
The practical joke backfired, however when this fine man not only got elected with a staggering 23,253 votes, but also had one of his manifesto policies made law: Nutella in all army field rations. The stunned new MP for Aarhus said: “It was all a practical joke, honestly. I guess people elected me because my promises are just as trustworthy as those of conventional political parties.”
He decided not to stand for re-election.
A motorist from Turkey set a new all-comers record in November 2005 when he was flashed by the same speed camera four times in the space of 1 minute 37 seconds. Through-out this record-breaking run in the Swiss town of Kreuzlingen he had no idea be was passing a speed trap. Baffled by the repeated flashing, he passed the spot again and again to investigate. This accomplished driver, whose identity was protected by Swiss privacy laws, told police that he thought someone was trying to annoy him with a flashgun and he wanted to check “what was going on”.
His achievement was made possible by the location of two roundabouts on either side of the camera.
Early morning radio is full of bright and breezy disc jockeys whose irritating chirpiness only makes things worse. Showing a rare and wonderful consideration for his listeners in June 1998. Phil Holmes set a new benchmark when he fell asleep for 30 min-utes while presenting his breakfast show on the Sunderland radio station Sun FM. He was woken up by his boss at 7.30am.
“One minute I was sitting there reading my advert list: the next I had him shouting at me to wake up,” Holmes said.
The latest branding idea from Saatchi & Saatchi in New Zealand was its “Our Auckland Big A” campaign. The idea was to foster civic pride by encouraging residents to greet each other with a signal in the form of an “A” made by joining the thumbs and fingers of both hands.
The campaign was abandoned when complaints were received from the Deaf Associ-ation of New Zealand and various women’s groups saying it was not only the internationally recognised sign for ‘Vagina” but also very like the sign language symbol for Aids.
Never have the possibilities of a sloping stage been more innovatively explored than in the celebrated 1979 Wexford Opera Festival performance of ‘Spontinis La Vestale’. The exciting decision was taken to cover the floor of the vestal virgins’ temple with Formica, which not only looks like marble but also has the added attraction of acute slipperiness. The plan was to cover the stage with lemon juice so the casts feet would stick to the floor.
Fortunately, a cleaning lady was so professionally affronted by the state of this stage that she washed and polished it that afternoon, helping to create the most inventive and free-range choreography seen on the operatic stage for 100 years.
The curtain rose and the Roman general Licinio strode onto the stage, fell flat on his back and slithered towards the footlights. Singing throughout, he got to his feet. After several plucky attempts to walk back up stage, he decided to stay where he was, no doubt calculating that the next character to enter, his friend Cinna. would shortly be joining him near the footlights anyway.
On came Cinna, arms waving, who hurtled down the stage and crashed into his chum at speed. They were propelled towards the orchestra pit.
Averting disaster at the last second, they worked their way gingerly along the edge of the stage “like mountaineers seeking a route round an unbridgeable crevasse”, according to the critic Bernard Levin, who looked on with a growing delight.
Still singing and clutching onto each other, the pair decided to make for a pillar bearing the sacred vestal flame that was three feet further up and embedded firmly in the stage floor.
At this point matters were considerably improved by the entrance of the chorus. They also decided to make for the fixed pillar which was now becoming quite crowded.
Happily, this chorus of centurions, gladiators and vestal virgins decided to form a daisy chain of mutual support, leading from the pillar across the stage with everyone clutching on to each other until all were accommodated. The audience was so moved by this performance that most were weeping and some struggled for breath.
In a pioneering advance for inter-species communication, two neighbours in south Devon hooted at one another for a year, each thinking the other was an owl.
Neil Simmons had been studying the calls of tawny owls in an oak tree at the bottom of his garden when he decided to attempt conversation with his own periodic hootings. It was not until Fred Cornes moved in next door that his persistence finally paid off.
Success was instant. Nightly for 12 months they both crept into the garden and every single one of their calls was met with an instant and gratifying reply.
They would still be doing this pioneering work but for a chance conversation in which Mrs Simmons was telling Mrs Cornes about how excited her husband gets when the owl hoots back. “He logs each call and is trying to modify his too-whit too-whoo to mimic the other owl.” she explained.
“That’s funny…” said Mrs Cornes and the research project came to an end.
Amid international excitement a new species of mammal was discovered in an isolated area of Vietnam. Known as a ‘tuoa’, this small deer-like creature was hailed by the Vietnamese branch of the World Wildlife Fund as “the biological equivalent of discovering a new planet”.
The animal was found in December 1995. The next month it was eaten by villagers.
Congleton town football club gave its oldest supporter, Fred Cope, a terrific send-off in February 1993. In the programme there was a moving notice announcing Cope’s death at the age of 85 and describing how he had followed Congleton as man and boy. The players lined up in the centre circle for a minutes silence with their heads bowed. Taking his place as usual on the terrace. Cope asked what was happening and it was not until he was shown the programme that he found out.
“The players were already standing on the pitch when we spotted Fred coming in.” said the Congleton press officer, Chris Phillips. It was hurriedly announced that the minutes silence was now, in fact, going to be for England player Bobby Moore instead.