So I’m 15 years old and drawing a birthday card for my best friend. I decide it will feature a grumpy cartoon Buzzard, berating the recipient for his advanced years (16 of them in all. Just imagine.) My friend is called Chung.
“Where does the time go, eh, Chung?” asks the frowning bird, at the end of a long, bitter tirade jammed into a page-long speech bubble, “Where does it go? Eh Chung? Eh? EH CHUNG? You old bastard.”
Twenty years later and I’m walking down the street in a Birthday Buzzard outfit.
Some yuppy on a mobile says: “A big chicken just walked past me.”
Maybe I should be worried by how very much at home I feel in the get-up. It’s been designed and made by Jill Paskins (who also provided Priscilla Queen Of The Desert with its kangaroos, anthropomorphic costumier fans!) and it’s a thing of beauty, I feel. The scowl is set at just the right level of pissed-offness; the pupils dilated in such a manner as to telegraph a permanent air of “whatever it is you want… forget it.” I practice walking in as grouchy a manner as possible. I get impatient with a pedestrian crossing and start kicking it.
“I can see his eyes!” says a lairy kid, staring through the grille mesh that allows me not to die when crossing the road. “It’s like one of them muslim things!” Yes. That’s right. It’s like a burqa. An hilarious burqa.
Reactions from the general public can be divided into two rough categories: those who stare, smile, and chat; and those who choose to completely ignore me, as if I’m just attention seeking and shouldn’t be encouraged.
An actor friend, Polly Frame, was once asked if there was any kind of work she wouldn’t do professionally. “Skinworks,” she replied. And there you are, thinking for a moment that maybe she meant, you know, ’sticky’ films. But no. Apparently what I’m doing now is skinworks: wandering around in a ‘character’ outfit, of whatever description… grumpy vulture… pirate and parrot… chipmunk… comedy banana… 7ft tall Robert Kilroy-Silk… smiling kidney… it’s all skinworks.
I remember another friend, actor Tom Wainwright, telling of a time he dressed up as a giant head. A bunch of kids surrounded him and kicked him to the floor.
I quietly return indoors.
All pictures by the really rather wonderful Richard J. Andersen www.luximages.co.uk