Humour is one of the great defining attributes of humanity. Quirky, off the wall humour can liberate people. When I was in my teens, my brother was a barman at the Manhattan Hotel in Pretoria. On summery Sundays we all used to gather around the hotel pool and listen to the “Goon Show” which Springbok Radio was broadcasting, over a decade late of course. We all loved the wacky humour and I learned to laugh along even though I found it bizarre. In 1979, one of my best friends, John Zachariades managed to invite the main writer of the Goon Show, Spike Milligan to Pretoria Boys High to give a speech. It was a blast. The man was crazy of course. He suffered from a bipolar dysfunction that saw him hospitalized over 10 times in his life. Spike Milligan was a trumpeter and a demoted gunner, two things that endear me to him because my son is a trumpeter and I was a demoted gunner. Milligan wrote and edited many books in his long career, including Puckoon and his seven-volume autobiographical account of his time serving during the Second World War, beginning with Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall. He is also noted as a popular writer of comical verse; much of his poetry was written for children, including Silly Verse for Kids (1959). After success with the The Goon Show, Milligan translated this success to television with Q5, a surreal sketch show which is credited as a major influence on the members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. After many years in retirement, Milligan died from kidney failure, at the age of 83 on this day in 2002, at his home in Rye, East Sussex. He had once quipped that he wanted his headstone to bear the words “I told you I was ill.” but the Chichester diocese (humourless sods) refused to allow this epitaph. A compromise was reached with the Irish translation, “Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite”, Irish for “I told you I was ill.” Thanks Spike for the laughs.
– Doug Racionzer (read more of Doug’s quirky takes ion history at http://serendipiday.blogspot.