‘Didn’t You Used To Be Nigel Wilde?’
A short story by Paul Carden
(The continuing story of Nigel Wilde, albeit misplaced in time)
The throaty buzz of a dying doorbell shook Nigel awake.
‘Oh shit it!’ he cursed as consciousness and a hangover closed in around his skull. The blurred lounge of his flat seemed smaller than usual and more unsteady, but this was the kind of vodka hangover where nothing is quite as it seems for at least two days.
As he shuffled towards the door he checked carefully to see if he was wearing trousers and fortunately his eyes answered in the affirmative.
The shape behind the frosted glass seemed rather short. ‘Dear, God! Midgets!’ he thought.
Nigel gingerly twisted the latch and peered out into the hallway.
‘Mr Wilde?’ said the short person.
‘I’m Toby. I’ve come to interview you.’
‘Toby? Interview? What is this clapjabber?’
‘For my school project. My Dad said it was okay.’
‘Martin from The Three Feathers’.
‘Oh, dear God, yes…I think,’ vague memories stirred somewhere in Nigel’s head. ‘Well, don’t just stand there on the landing like a bag of nails, come on in Tony.’
‘Of course you are. Excuse the mess but I don’t have any reason to be remotely tidy.’
Nigel ushered Toby in and the boy seated himself on the pink armchair in the lounge. Nigel seated himself on the green one with its makeshift cushion of drying clothes.
‘I’d offer you a drink, Toby, but you aren’t legally able to drink any of the liquids I keep here.
‘That’s okay, Mr Wilde.’
‘Call me, Mr Wilde.’
Toby brought out a note pad and pen, which startled Nigel slightly.
‘What programmes did you used to be on, Mr Wilde?’
‘Ah,’ sighed Nigel leaning back in his chair and gazing at the ill-chosen orange lamp shade hanging from the ceiling, ‘You’re too young to remember any of them.’
‘My Dad says they were really good.’
‘He’s right. Let me see…there was the quiz show ‘Know Your Oats’, a historical sitcom, ‘Here Come The Lullards’, not a great success. The sketch show ‘A Right Barrel of Onions’, ‘Apricot Halves’ and my crowning glory ‘Nigel Wilde’s Hour O’ Fun.’ Nigel fixed his eyes on Toby. ‘That was a show my lad!’
‘And where did it all go wrong?’ asked Toby matter-of-factly.
‘You journalists never let me dwell on the good stuff do you?’ Nigel sighed, ‘Ah, you know how tastes change. My old-school entertainment fell out of favour. You’re only allowed to tell offensive jokes now if you’re being ironic. Ironic! These days I can only manage dyspeptic.’
‘Wasn’t there a charity you embezzled and the nervous breakdown?’
‘Yeah, that too. It’s a rich tapestry. You’re rather well-informed for a school boy.’
‘My Dad’s a huge fan of yours,’ smiled Toby.
‘Hmph! I could do with a few more like him.’
‘He says you could be famous again if you really put your mind to it’.
‘Famous?’ Nigel smiled, ‘It’s not about fame for me, or success or money. It’s about making those faces light up. Seeing them shine and knowing that you’re making it happen. The only offers I get now are calling bingo and MC-ing at British Legions and WMC’s.’
‘But if you just want to make their faces light up you can do it there too.’
Nigel looked at Toby’s hopeful little face.
‘Oh, shut up! What would you know? I’ve crawled round enough shit-hole clubs, ‘scuse my French, to last me a lifetime. I never thought I’d have to go through that again. But one mistake and I’m out on my arse. ‘Scuse my French. No-one in TV-land gives a sh…monkeys about Nigel Wilde anymore.’
‘Perhaps you’re just not looking in the right places?’ suggested Toby.
Nigel frowned, ‘Explain, Toby-showbiz-guru?’
‘You won’t find an answer if you look in the past, like variety shows, quiz shows and sit-coms. Take what you can do, your abilities, and see where they can fit today.’
‘Toby, I wish I wasn’t as hung over as I am, then I might understand what you’re on about’.
Toby flipped over a blank page on his notepad.
‘I’d say your main skills are improvisation, dealing with the public, able to make jokes out of situations, all particularly suitable for live TV or radio.’
‘Mmm? I suppose so.’
‘So,’ said Toby, beginning to jot, ‘your opportunities might go along the lines of Home Shopping, Local Radio…things like that which require a lively creative mind, someone who can work off the cuff as it were.’
‘You know too much, who are you working for?’
‘It’s all quite obvious if you think about it,’ Toby enthused.
‘Are you working undercover for Equity?’
‘Mr Wilde, there are things you can go for, you’re just looking in the wrong places.’
‘You remind me of an agent I fired once.’
‘Try it, Mr Wilde. Just go for a few of these things and see what happens. You’ve got nothing to lose’.
Nigel looked around his rather forlorn little flat. ‘This is true’, he concluded.
‘I have to go for my tea’.
‘Tea?’ I’ve only just got up! Oh, good grief is that the time? I must have been in bed all day.’
‘Think about it, Mr Wilde,’ said Toby as Nigel showed him out, ‘What have you got to lose?’
Nigel shut the door and walked back into the lounge. He looked at the empty bottles that seemed to have become his only ornaments.
‘What have I got to lose?’ he muttered.
‘Much-loved TV entertainer, Nigel Wilde, was found dead this morning at his home in Surrey. Nick-named ‘the comeback king’, the controversial comedian experienced a spectacular renaissance in his career after working on Regional Radio and the Home Shopping Channel, which led to a revival of his ‘Hour O’ Fun’ show on the UK TV Network. He was also due to guest star in a new drama series next year. Hundreds of flowers and cards have been left outside his home by fans and well-wishers. A spokesman from the Surrey ambulance service told the BBC that Mr Wilde had suffered a heart attack. He was 68.’