APRIL 27TH, 1967: Everything became a discussion of sex
BACK PAGES:OLIVER J FLANAGAN, the Fine Gael TD for Laois-Offaly, famously (and risibly) said there was no sex in Ireland before television. What he presumably meant was that there was no public discussions of sex before television, and a TV review by Ken Gray on this day in 1967 shows he might have had a point, as television seemed to turn everything into a discussion of sex, writes JOE JOYCE.
American sex symbol Jayne Mansfield was due to appear at a cabaret in Tralee but the owners of the Mount Brandon hotel cancelled the show after the bishop of Kerry, Denis Moynihan, urged people not to attend. The local parish priest, Mgr John Lane, called on Tralee people to dissociate themselves “from this attempt to besmirch the name of our town for the sake of filthy gain” (Mansfield was to receive £1,000 for the appearance).
It was a readymade subject for the next Late Late Showbut its satirical sketch about it appears to have been something of a damp squib, although it was subsequently condemned by Tralee VEC. Undaunted, the show turned a separate item with US hardboiled crime writer Mickey Spillane into a discussion about sex as well:
TALKING ABOUT non-events, the Late Late Showhad a little bit of snide, holier-than-thou fun at the expense of Jayne Mansfield and the inhabitants of Tralee, but the joke ran on beyond its strength and came over more like a schoolboy snigger than sophisticated satire.
But though the attempt to exhibit Miss Mansfield to the people of Tralee ultimately was frustrated, television itself was busy proving, in a number of different ways, that sex is by no means a lost cause in the entertainment business.
The Late Late Showitself had quite a bit to say on the subject – mostly by way of oblique condemnation of the work of the American author, Mickey Spillane, who was one of the guests. Everybody cracked down on him pretty hard; his argument that literature can best be judged by the amount of hard cash it brings in made their task an easy one.
When, from the audience, Mr Vincent Grogan, whose views on such topics are reasonably predictable, was asked to join in, fellow guest Patrick Campbell was heard to murmur to Spillane: “It’s just not your night, mate.”
But in a way, of course, it was. There cannot be many who if they didn’t know it before don’t know now exactly where to look for stories filled with sex, violence and sadism.
The BBC’s Twenty-Four Hourswas in similar condemnatory mood when taking a look – a discreet look it may be said – at a fad prevalent in Los Angeles and now repeated in London: the serving of beer by waitresses wearing the briefest of pants, high-heeled shoes and nothing else.
Any “tut-tuts” contained in the commentary had the hollow ring of the tabloid headline that screams “DISGRACEFUL!” while satisfying curiosity about what it condemns.
Has anything the BBC does any impact in this country? I’m told, on good authority, that the day following this item the topless waitresses were the talk of a certain Co Mayo village where BBC reception is particularly good. Still, it will probably be a very long time before any Irish publican in Tralee or elsewhere is tempted to try and pep up business this way.
Peter Molony, the former Liverpool schoolteacher who has abandoned teaching for television, and a recent guest on The Late Late Show, was on about sex on Saturday night in his own programme.
This was another debunking job – an attempt to set values straight – but as the stocky Liverpudlian foraged about disapprovingly among makers and sellers of nude calendars, publishers of “girlie” magazines and Bunny girls he was inevitably quickening interest in matters in which, according to our censors, we are not supposed to have any interest.