Swanky. Glass and steel exterior. Through window, and past the reflection of suited pedestrians, one glimpsed a huge reception. I craned my neck skyward, but could find no ceiling. The only furniture past glass was a desk. This desk - a tank. The receptionist’s position was similar to the soldier you’d see on top of such a vehicle. You could only perceive her shoulders and head and hair, so high was the fucker.
And so I felt oppressed, having whisked through automatic doors, standing small-y in front of her.
She made me wait uncomfortable upon uncomfortable minute before she raised her head.
“Yes?” she called.
Her voice was soaked in privileged intonation. Even the receptionists in TV had attended Oxbridge.
Reader, she wore a ridiculous wig. There was no chance that she wasn’t bewigged - such was the height of her piece. Beehive, it was, and blacker than any hair should be. As black as the metal desk that stood between us, in fact (blacker than the night).
“Can I help?” she spoke.
I realised that I hadn’t yet replied. I had been staring at her hair, thinking of the B52s.
“I’m Kay Richardson. I’ve come for the Quiz Call audition,” I stammered.
“Quiz Call?” she bellowed, inflection close to the cinematic version of Lady Bracknell’s ‘A handbag?’.
I repeated myself.
“There’s no ‘Quiz Call’ here,” she said. “This is London Weekend Television. LWT wouldn’t produce ‘Quiz Call’.”
She spoke Quiz Call as if the words were more offensive than ‘fucking cunt’, say.
I beat a sharp repeat, coughing ‘wig’ as I passed through the swishy doors.
Five minutes later, I was standing in an office as garish as Burger King and smaller than a ladybird’s bathroom. This was the correct place. I had mistaken the number ‘13’ for the number ‘31’, you see. I’ve never felt easy with numbers.
Five desks there were, all covered in paper and computers. Brightly coloured posters stained the walls. They advertised Quiz Call programmes. Ridiculously attractive models looked out at you, speech bubbles thrusting from mouths. ‘Call us’/’Win money’/’Do it’ they invited.
There was only one other human in room. His name was Dominic Shatley and he was speaking loudly into an expensive mobile phone. He sat at a desk, legs perched upon a pile of paper.
“Yeah. I got him here now, you twat,” he said. “We need studio time. What? Fuck rehearsals. You don’t even need rehearsal. He’s calling out fucking numbers. You don’t need rehearsal to call out fucking numbers. My fucking dog could do that. Yeah. He could. He’s a clever dog. Yeah. Twenty minutes,” he continued.
He threw the tiny phone upon the desk and gave me the once over.
“You always wear that patch?” he barked.
“No,” I said. “Only for the next couple of days. I scratched my cornea.”
“Good,” he responded. “You look like a fucking pirate.” He pointed at his mobile phone. “That was the director. Fucking twat.”
Dominic Shatley was a wanker. He wore a pin-stripe suit. It didn’t have the baggy quality of my suits (bought from H&M). It hung from his body as if he’d lay upon the original fabric and the tailor had drawn an chalk around him to detail his body’s curves.
Dominic Shatley wore no shirt. Oh no. He wore a T-shirt. This was blue and displayed the wording ‘Tom is not my friend’. I didn’t (and don’t) understand, but do/did assume that this was ironic.
Dominic Shatley picked up a sheet of paper, crumpled at the edges.
“It says here that you’re black,” he said. “It doesn’t fucking look like you’re black. Apart from your fucking eye.”
“I’m not black,” I replied.
“A shame. You’ve got TV experience, right? We’re gonna spend some time in the studio this morning.”
I looked at his fat face and greased-back hair.
“Yes,” I lied.
There followed twenty minutes of questions. I presumed that this was the opening section of the interview, although at no point was the presumption clarified. Shatley remained in the same pose he had assumed to speak to the director over telephone – slouched in office chair, with loafers crossed on desk. His questions focused on the lies of CV I’d sent. My responses were a combination of ill-informed waffle and hard denial of the resume’s claims (I assured Shatley that I’d never appeared as a Dalek on Doctor Who and that my email must have corrupted). My legs had begun to ache after five minutes of interrogation. I was refused a chair to sit upon.
When Shatley had finally expended all questions by which to condemn my deceit, he wasn’t convinced. I knew this because he said ‘I’m not convinced.”
Next we went to a pub. Shatley assured me that the conversation that took place in bar would not form part of the assessment. The bar was called ‘The Ironmonger’, but Shatley referred to it as ‘The Bald Bollock’. When I asked why this was, he looked at me as if I were an idiot.
The forty minutes were spent drinking two pints of Fosters and listening to Shatley expound on the fortunes of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. I, in an ill-conceived attempt to curry favour, claimed I supported Arsenal. He challenged me to name two of their players. I could manage ‘the French one’, nothing else. Shatley called me ‘a fucking lying prick’, which I thought a little harsh.
During the Thames bank brown brick walk to studio, Shatley let slip that I’d been the only applicant called to interview, mainly on the strength of my Dalek appearance. He said that I was a good looking fellow and that I’d have to ‘fuck up royally’ not to get the job.
I swallowed hard and smiled wetly.
The studio wasn’t much larger than Shatley’s office. The back wall was coloured blue and held a whiteboard. There was a slight lighting rig hanging from midpoint of ceiling which pointed towards this blue back wall. Behind these lights was one camera and (I guessed correctly) an autocue. A sweaty man with hair on his face lent upon this camera, and stared into the middle distance. Behind him was a sexy blonde with clipboard. Behind her – at the opposite corner of the room to the entrance – hunched a man over machinery that looked like a mixing desk. A couple of monitors were built into his grey technology.
“I won’t bother explaining all this shit to you,” Shatley said to me. To the others: “He’s done this before. Let’s have five minutes – use the script from last night’s edition.” The blonde woman, sweaty cameraman and man at machine all jumped into action. I stood still. “Stand over there, you cunt,” said Shatley pointing at the blue wall. “Don’t fuck it.”
Reader, it was abominable.
A mixture of idleness and vanity meant that I’d never bought the glasses that my dodgy left eye deserved. In day to day life, this wasn’t a problem. It only (yes) became one when I was called upon to read small text from a distance greater than two metres and my good eye was covered (in bandage).
Quizcall’s autocue was three metres away.
“Hello and welcome to Quiz Ball,” I said. “What have liberally thousands of hounds to give away today,” I continued, squinting like an embarrassed mole. My delivery possessed the confidence of a leper asking Miss World for a handjob (a shy leper too).
Shatley signalled the end of my piece with a loud “You’re shit - put this one-eyed twat fucking wanker out of his misery” soon after I started. I hadn’t even time to crack any of my planned adlibbed jokes.
The lights cut out and the camera drooped.
“What the fuck was that?” bellowed Shatley.
The woman with the clipboard was openly laughing.
“I forgot my glasses,” was my feeble response.
“Do one,” said Shatley, pointing at the door.
I left the room, but was forced to return a few seconds later – I couldn’t remember how to leave the building. It was labyrinthine. You had to enter keycodes and that. Shatley was calling me a twat to the woman with clipboard when I re-entered the studio.
“I thought I’d told you to fucking do one,” he said.
I agreed that he had, and explained that I understood, but couldn’t remember how to leave the complex. Shatley shook his head and the woman with the clipboard gave me directions and a keycode. As I apologised and thanked them both, Shatley stopped shaking his head and asked me a question.
“What was the name of the presenter you claimed to fuck?”
“I don’t remember,” I replied.
He started shouting that I’d put ‘dating a past presenter’ on my C.V. and that it wasn’t that I couldn’t remember her name it was that I was a fucking liar.
I closed the door upon the vile man’s vitriol. I’d been sworn at enough for a day.
I bought a mint choc chip ice-cream at Waterloo station. It melted quickly.
Reader, I wasn’t disappointed. I attended the interview without hope of employment. But as Father’s money cascaded from my bank account, finding employment became increasingly important.
The Stage had adverts for dancers.