Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Life of Brian

I have to admit to never having been a huge fan of East 17 in general, and of Brian Harvey in particular, but it's true to say that I've warmed to the man in recent years. Particularly since he gave up singing and started running himself over. But add to that his performance in 'House of Pies' on last year's 'I'm a Celebrity', and his girlfriend's complete lack of concern for him on 'The Farm', and I'm willing to admit I've become quite fond of the little gnome. So I was naturally excited to see last night's documentary 'Being Brian Harvey', screened as part of the BBC's 'ONE Life' series. The thought of 'being Brian Harvey' might be the kind of scenario more suited to scaring small children at Halloween, but with less than two weeks to go til Christmas, it certainly got me in the festive mood.

The programme began with Brian recovering in hospital from his near-fatal car crash, sustained earlier this year when he left his home in Walthamstow and promptly reversed over himself with his own car. Girlfriend Emma B (the B stands for breasts), who, upon hearing the tragic news of one of Brian's suicide attempts during her stint on reality shit-shovelling show 'The Farm', chose to stay where she was and battle it out with Keith Harris & Orville for the title of 'Top Farmer', was there keeping a vigil by Brian's bedside. So clearly her agent couldn't find her any work that day.

In a mood of sombre gravity, surgeon Martin Bircher showed us what he called the "oh shit x-ray" (it's a medical term), before announcing that Brian had sustained a crushed pelvis and severely damaged internal organs, and might even die. Yes, I know it's what millions have hoped for all these years, but this is no laughing matter - his vocal chords were completely undamaged.

Fortunately however, having undergone a bit of surgery and had half a Meccano set installed in his nether regions, Brian was allowed out of hospital under a blanket and headed to Emma B's "small basement flat in Hastings" for a bit of rest and recuperation. Once there, he was able to set the record straight about what really happened that dark night in June when he put the car in reverse and dived under the back wheels. Some have said it was suicide attempt, but Brian was adamant it was no more than a freak accident. Well, an accident involving a freak. As he said himself, "I'd eaten a load of jacket potatoes just before", he found himself "gagging" (so 'Stay Another Day' was probably on the car stereo), leading to the inevitable consquence of "I'm fucked". It couldn't be clearer.

Brian, however, wasn't a happy bunny. Having been declared bankrupt in 2001, he'd been eking out a living from celebrity TV appearances and guest spots at Butlins (which is no life for an animal), and was worried about where the next job might come from. Not that there was any need to be - in Brian's words, "I'm a realist. I say what I see", so he clearly has a future as a Catchphrase contestant.

As for his time in East 17, Brian spoke fondly of his experiences with the band, describing them as "four geezers from the east end of London, we smoke fags, we've all got birds and they're rough around the edges". Which is no way to talk about Emma B. Well ok, strictly speaking it is. But this is a woman who's apparently "put her modelling and TV career on hold to be there for him". Not much of a sacrifice, it's true, but we did see Brian calling plaintively from the bathroom for a towel, prompting Emma's immediate and caring response of "I'm downstairs".

Hang on... Downstairs in a basement flat??? Blimey, could those two sink any lower? It's like 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' in that place.

But anyhoo, when he's not talking about potatoes and picking at his scabs, Brian's watching TV and commenting that "Jerry Springer's gone downhill, hasn't he". The words pot, kettle and black spring to mind. Though in Brian's case of course, pot means something entirely different. He did give us his thoughts on his two previous suicide attempts however, saying "It weren't no cry for help. I meant it". A view which contrasted slightly with Emma B's opinion that "I don't think he wanted to die. It was a cry for help".

Of more concern however was the surgeon's warning that Brian's pelvic fracture may have left him permanently impotent. The thought of no little Brian Harveys wandering the earth in years to come was clearly a prospect to fill one with dread. Or joy, depending on your point of view. But as luck would have it, Brian was there to set our minds at rest by confirming that his penis "works like a dream". A wet dream for him. A nightmare for the rest of us.

So with Brian's erections fully discussed, it was on to the next stage of surgery. Dr Bircher was a little concerned because apparently people who break a pelvis can sometimes "go from being active, healthy, family people with a job" to being divorced, unemployed and on drugs. So in Brian's case there'll be no discernable change.

The operation, however, was a complete success, and Brian's recovery was going well. In the words of Emma B, "Now he can walk again, he's been talking about getting his career back on track". Damn that surgeon. But fortunately for music fans everywhere, Brian was finding it hard to leave the flat, meaning the chances of him making it to a recording studio were slim. And besides, he was worried about being mobbed by the fans. As he said himself, "I walk down the street and old ladies know who I am". Or possibly they just think you look like a mugger.

Ultimately though, it was hard going. Fobbed off by record companies, abandoned by Tony Mortimer, and estranged from his beloved Walthamstow, Brian Harvey felt like giving up. Step forward his manager, a man clearly being paid to be positive, who attempted to gee up the crestfallen Brian with this undeniable statement of fact: "You would be robbing the world of a great vocal if you never sang again".

Yes, but he'd also be making millions of people happy. It's a tough call.