This month's Vanity Fair features the
Monty Python chaps in one of its famous montages. The March 2004 issue
is on magazine racks already, so hurry if you want to get your hands
on a rare portrait of all six (yes I said six) members of Monty Python's
The photograph, by entertainment photographer Art
Streiber, is part of this year's installment of a Vanity Fair tradition
called The Hollywood Portfolio. The 41 page spread honors the best,
brightest, and biggest stars in the movie business. The Pythons are
featured on the last two pages in an awesome photo that can only best
be described as "Not Quite Dead Yet." All five Pythons are
pictured in coffins wearing suitably Pythonesque attire: Michael Palin
is dressed as a lumberjack and holding a map of Finland; John Cleese
is the desk announcer with newspaper; Terry Jones, dressed as a Pepperpot,
has a handbag and a blonde; Eric Idle is seen playing his guitar; and
Terry Gilliam is holding a dustpan with late Graham Chapman's ashes
The photo generated some chatter on PythOnline recently, which prompted
Finnish fan Timo Kokkila to send us a marvelous story
about Finland's evening-newspaper, Ilta-Sanomat,
which assumed Palin's lumberjack and Finland map to be a tongue-in-cheek
comment on Finland. Obviously missing the reference to the Finland
song, the journalist rang up the Finnish ambassador to the UK who commented
“perhaps they're poking fun at our map... I should know more about
this Pyyton. I must say, that I'm not an expert. I really haven't
followed their work.” All together Finlandphiles!
Hopefully many fans got a chance to read some of Eric Idle's 2003 journal,
which he faithfully shared daily during his Greedy
Ba$tard Tour. Scattered throughout the 80 journal entries
is the fascinating tale of the Vanity Fair photo shoot. Below is the
story, in Eric's own words. Incidentally,
Eric wrote to tell us the other day that William Morrow Publishing had
bought the rights to the Greedy Bastard Tour diary and would likely
be publishing it by next year...
...Even tonight my wife has had desperate calls from Vanity Fair:
the Pythons won't return their calls for a photo session. Of course
they won't. Mike's in the Himalayas, Terry Jones is filming in Lincolnshire,
Terry G. is under the Weinsteins in Austria. (Now there's a musical
The Weinstein's in Austria. The Mound of Music!) This photo session
is never going to happen. Dream on Haydon baby...
...Vanity Fair emailed last week and asked for my sizes and terrible
visions of costumes ran through my mind - are they expecting us to
dress up? Mind you, now that I think of it, it might be hilarious
if we were all photographed in drag at our ages. A group of pissy
old women, made up to the nines and looking like a bunch of old actresses.
Wouldn't that be funny? With a caption: The Men who Made the Life
...The big news is that I was right about the Python re-union
picture. I thought there was zero chance we'd all get together for
a photo in Vanity Fair. John is still sick and has canceled his re-scheduled
trip to Vancouver so we won't all even be in two pictures. We are
to be photographed in different parts of the world and stuck together
by computer. Quite a reunion. I never believed John would fly all
the way up to British Columbia for a photo. Why would he? I sure wouldn't.
So they are going to settle for a virtual re-union. Some kind of collage.
I'm sorry Graydon dear but I did warn you. I once surmised that if
there was a finite amount of decisions that a group of six people
might agree to during a single lifetime, then Monty Python used all
of them up during the first fifteen years. Now all that's left are
the no's. Like getting heads first and statistically following it
up with all tails. (See T. Stoppard.)...
|Photo: Terry Gilliam
and Graham Chapman, Credit: copyright and courtesy
of Art Streiber (www.artstreiber.com)
...I'm all bathed and ready to pose naked for Vanity Fair (bollocks
Ed) when I get the message at the last minute it's been cancelled.
This is really ridiculous. But I laugh and put my clothes back on.
I was kinda hoping to be the new Ashton Kutcher but I guess the old
one is still doing too well. This saga continues...
...Afterwards I am being photographed by Vanity Fair for the Python
"reunion" montage. Apparently they are a bit pissed that
I mentioned this in my diary. Perhaps it's the montage bit that gets
them. Gosh if it leaks out that all those air-brushed divas are not
actually in the same room together western civilization will collapse.
I have very funny email from Terry G. that he and Mike and Terry J
are posing together on Friday. Wish I was with them...
Project: Monty Python
Shoot Date: Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Location: Blue Sky Studio 2325 3rd Street. Suite 434, San Francisco,
Call Time: Talent @4:00pm
...After all my kvetching the Vanity Fair shoot was a lot of fun.
I thought the curse of Python was going to strike again when the Limo
company called up and said the car they were sending had crashed en
route, but they soon had a replacement. I don't know how top secret
all this stuff is, but suffice it to say the "costume" turned
out to be a coffin. It should be quite a funny spread when it's all
done and I was impressed by the speed and efficiency of their whole
team. They stuck me in a night shirt and a dressing gown designed
by an incredibly expensive designer whose name I have already forgotten.
I know, I know. I'd make a terrible gay man. I'd like to join. It's
all the rage but I think I'm just too old. Who wants to read "60
year old British virgin, seeks to swap sides. 1 previous wife, 1 current.
Looking for similar in the Bristol area." It just doesn't have
the appeal does it?
"What a pity we don't have a night cap" I said as we
admired me in my name-forgotten expensive designer night-gown. Instantly
Kim Meehan, the stylist, whipped an expensive shirt off the rack,
grabbed a pair of scissors and hacked it into an elegant night cap
complete with tassel (pulled from a ski hat) in just a few minutes.
Then she raced for the airport to fly to London to prepare wardrobe
for Mike and the Terrys on Friday. The other costume I wore was a
fabulous three-quarter length coat with teddy-boy velvet lapels. Very
Rutles. Then they threw a bowler hat on me and handed me a furled
umbrella so I suddenly looked like I was auditioning for a remake
of the Remake of The Avengers. In the end the effect is kinda Renee
Magritte meets Patrick McGee.
The amazingly swift and efficient photographer Art Streiber had
been reading my Tour diary and opined I must write it at night since
I sound so grumpy, but no, I replied, "I can be very sweet at
night. I am naturally grumpy in the mornings." We immediately
decide that I should have a guitar with me in my last resting place,
and so one swift cell phone call to the unflappable Skip and he pulls
my Baby Taylor off the bus and throws it into the back of a limo and
voila we have a guitar. (It's the one Clint Black sent me to celebrate
the birth of his daughter Lily Pearl.)
Diana Schmidtke, the "groomer" does her best to make
me look attractive after-life and she herself is very attractive and
actually quite breathtaking when she finally takes her coat off. Fabulously
shaped as a matter of fact. She has a fascinating tattoo which disappears
tantalizingly into her
Good job the wife was there. The trouble
and strife arrived at the hotel just as I was leaving and we almost
made our mistiming a classic. Tania was about to enter the "up"
elevator as I stepped out of the "down" elevator. Another
two seconds and we'd have missed each other. I think our lives are
like that. It's amazing we ever met. But she came with me to the shoot
so I was able to be the target of her dry comments as they groomed
me. "Stay" I say. "I can't" she says "I have
It was actually very sad watching Tania look at me in my coffin
the other day on the Vanity Fair shoot. There is something deeply
poignant about seeing your wife looking at you lying in a coffin.
It's one of those experiences, like being crucified, that you won't
ever forget. You think "So this is what it is like. The moment
of death will be something like this. This time I'll get up and walk
away but that time..." "Just remember that the last laugh
is on you
" Disturbing and prescient. I saw Tania for the
first time as a widow, like so many of our friends...
...And by the way I didn't enjoy much seeing pictures of John
in his coffin. I was very moved. I really must like him then. Good
to find that out before it's too late to tell him.