Tuesday 7 April 2015

Frank Bellamy and Monty Python

Cover by Lolly Honeysett

Bert Fegg's Nasty Book for Boys and Girls was published in 1974 during the period in which I would recount the previous evening's Monty Python TV programme on the way to school. I always found some sketches hilarious and completely mad but others flew right over my head. But when I heard them re-told by friends at school I began to see the wit!

I wasn't aware, at the time, that Terry Jones and Michael Palin had written this book (I knew about the records and also the other books like Eric Idle's The Brand New "Monty Python" Papperbok) but don't know how I missed this. Perhaps it was a confusing title for booksellers as they wouldn't know 1) it was Monty Python authors and 2) whether it was for children. After all it had illustrations, cartoons, a cutaway (like the Eagle comic had) and even a comic strip.

The majority of drawings - especially of Bert Fegg, are by Martin Honeysett, who does a revolting job of presenting the demented doctor! A list of some of the contents appears in the Wikipedia article on this 62 page book. Some are too difficult to explain as I'm sure any reader will realise. 

Frank Bellamy was asked to illustrate a story about a cowboy called 'Kid' Masterson (a resonant name based on Bat Masterson, a friend of Wyatt Earp) and his horse Valiant. This appears on pages 30-31. Valiant has a problem, he suffers from bronchitis and has to visit the clinic, (where we see a nurse coming to the Doctor with a bucket and shovel!). Jones and Palin have fun with Germanic, East European names for the clinic and doctors; the names of the canyon, and hills and the sun sinking, the latter being the usual tropes of those brilliant spaghetti westerns, which Bellamy loved. The closing panel promises another episode "Next Week" which of course is impossible but emulates weekly comics in the UK at that time (or maybe TV serials). Valiant is obviously a loved but troublesome mount!

Frank Bellamy was paid £200 in May 1974 for the two pages. An invitation was sent to him by Geoffrey Strachan (Managing Director of Eyre Methuen Limited) on 8 October 1974 to attend the book launch on the 24 October. He states that Terry Jones and Michael Palin would be there together with John Pringle (a Director of Eyre Methuen). Whether Bellamy attended or not, or what he thought of the work, we don't have a record.But David Bellamy stated in his book how his father's sense of humour appeared in tune with Monty Python. In the 'acknowledgements' section on page 61:
Frank Bellamy: A liver and bacon addict from Morden, wishes to deny any association with Fegg but actually knows him quite well and did "The cowboy Story" for him.

A total, almost, revision was created under the title Dr. Fegg's Encyclopeadia [sic] of all World Knowledge (formerly The nasty book). It appeared in 1984 and has an alphabetical arrangement. Some of the previous work is used but rearranged and one significant addition is a double page spread on videos, the technology not being widely available in the time of the previous book.  Bellamy's work is reprinted on pages 94-95 in this edition

Between these two UK editions, there appeared in the USA another edition (1976) Dr. Fegg's Nasty Book of Knowledge by Terry Jones and Michael Palin. As it states on a site on the Net:

American version of "Bert Fegg's Nasty Book for Boys and Girls;" contains most of the same material as the original British edition but includes expanded content, 32-pages of additional material, and lots more color illustrations than the original; reverse cover has humorous bios of Terry Jones and Michael Palin in an attempt to mention Monty Python twenty times) Berkeley Medallion 1976 (U.S.) SBN 425-03084-395 (paperback)

I don't own a copy so don't know if Bellamy's piece appeared here too. Can anyone tell me please?


Tony Smith said...

The whole Monty Python team were fans of Bellamy's work. His widow Nancy once told me she and Frank were invited have dinner with them at the Ritz in London. This was around the time Bert Fegg's Nasty Book was published and Nancy showed me the menu signed by the Pythons.

Norman Boyd said...

Every little fact means something at this stage of Bellamy's record, so many thanks again Tony