British Government Releases Scandalous Benny Hill Tapes

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Vol 32 Issue 17

CBS Picks Up NBC Nightly News

NEW YORK—In an effort to bolster its flagging ratings, CBS announced Monday that it has picked up the longrunning NBC program NBC Nightly News. CBS—which paid $150 million for the rights to the highly rated news program after a lengthy bidding war with NBC, ABC and Fox—will run NBC Nightly News in its 7:30 p.m. EST time slot, immediately following CBS Evening News. "We are delighted to welcome the newest member of the CBS family," CBS president Laurence Hewitt said. "Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather are nighttime television’s new dream team. When put back to back, these two powerhouse shows form the most unbeatable, exciting hour of news anywhere." NBC will also air reruns of CBS Evening News weeknights at 11 p.m. EST, followed by Fox Tuesday Night At The Movies.

Man With Hammer-Induced Thumb Injury Appeals To Christ Almighty

MANHATTAN, KS—In his third hammer-induced communion with the Son of God in as many days, local resident Bart Peintner made a vociferous appeal to Lord Jesus Christ Almighty Monday following a blunt ball-peen-hammer blow to his left thumb. "Holy Jesus Christ Almighty in Heaven!" said Peintner, who was repairing a chair at the time of the thumb injury/spiritual communion. Added Peintner: "Jesus Fucking Christ!" Spokespersons for Fucking Christ were unavailable for comment at press time.

Enormous Grace Slick Threatens California Coastline

SACRAMENTO, CA—In an emergency measure Monday, California Gov. Pete Wilson ordered two dozen Northern California coastal communities evacuated following the appearance of an enormous Grace Slick along the coastline near Monterey. "We have no knowledge at this time of how this Slick may be contained," Wilson said. "But we are urging all residents in the immediate area to leave their homes and seek shelter inland." Slick, who has reportedly reached an area coverage of 4.5 acres, was unavailable for comment. "I just hope the indigenous wildlife of this region can be saved," said Greenpeace director Ron Wooten after surveying the damage. "So much devastation to the local ecosystem has occurred already. I pray the Slick does not continue to spread." Slick's rapidly spiraling mass has already destroyed the city of Berkeley, which Slick herself helped build on rock and roll.

Former President Carter Sole Attendee At 1997 Solar Power Summit

ATLANTA—The 1997 Solar Power Summit got off to an auspicious start Saturday, with a star-studded celebrity panel featuring such luminary as former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. "Solar power is the cleanest, safest, most ecologically sound power source available. We owe it to ourselves and this planet to invest in the development of renewable solar resources," said Carter, addressing more than 1,500 seats at the Atlanta Convention Center. "Your attendance at this summit stands as testimony to your commitment to a safe and clean future." Immediately following the summit, Carter boarded a cab to the Atlanta Marriott Hotel for MetriCon ’97. "America is slowly but surely ‘centimetering’ toward progress," Carter quipped.

This Column Is A 'Re-run'

Doc McGillicuddy ordered me not to write my column this week because I am just getting over a bout of the pleurisy, and I need my bed-rest. McGillicuddy suggested I consent to what he called a "re-run," or a printing of a previously published column.

I'm Mad About Mad About You!

Item! By now, the whole nation knows that televisionland's favorite couple, Paul and Jamie Buchman of Mad About You, has finally had its long-dreamed-of baby. (If you didn't know, you should have—after all, it was only the top rated episode of any television show this season.) But did you know that they will be having more? Yes, in a storyline ripped straight out of today's headlines, the couple is going to adopt several homeless orphans to get them off the street and into America's hearts. By putting a little Eight Is Enough into the show, they are making one of my favorite shows all the better! I think that Helen Hunt and Paul Rudner make a great couple, and I'll keep watching them and their madcap romantic antics until I die! I'm simply mad about Mad About You!
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British Government Releases Scandalous Benny Hill Tapes

LONDON—Calling for "a new, more open era in British rule" and citing the need for "a time of healing for past transgressions," prime minister Tony Blair announced Monday that the British government will declassify and release the so-called "unexpurgated" Benny Hill tapes, ending over 15 years of public outcry and government cover-ups concerning their scandalous content.

Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks to reporters about Benny Hill's alleged videotaped improprieties.

Banned by Margaret Thatcher in 1982 for being "too cheeky" for public consumption, the controversial tapes allegedly contain over 150 hours of footage of well-known British public figure Alfred Hawthorne "Benny" Hill engaged in a variety of "compromising" situations, including bawdy musical numbers, saucy wordplay, and broad physical slapstick, much of it of a sexual nature.

Hill, formally denounced by Thatcher and Parliament in 1983, died in 1992 when a pair of oversized inflatable novelty bloomers he was wearing exploded upon contact with a haystack.

"Only by being open and honest about our nation's past mistakes can we ensure that they do not repeat themselves in the future," Blair, the first Labor Party member to head Britain after years of Conservative rule, told reporters at a 10 Downing Street press conference. "Releasing these tapes is the first step on the road toward a collective national healing, toward a glorious day when the honking, staccato melody of Boots Randolph's 'Yakety Sax' no longer haunts the collective memory of our nation."

Among the "violations of decency and good taste" captured on the now-declassified tapes: repeated use of oversized artificial prop breasts (see photo); reckless overuse of the "Mahna-Mahna" song; high-speed dubbing of dialogue to create a "quacking" effect; and, most seriously, the willful alteration of nearly two dozen publicly posted signs, including the changing of one reading "Georgie's Tarts and Crumpets" to read "Orgies, Tarts and Strumpets."

"The kind of vandalism in which Hill regularly partakes on these tapes is positively unconscionable," said Sir Fentwick Creighton-Thorpe of the London Commission of Registries.

Particularly disgraceful, Creighton-Thorpe said, is a segment in which a sign reading "Therapist" is manipulated to read "The rapist." "Such misrepresentation," he said, "could severely damage the proprietor of the sign's reputation as a provider of counseling."

Benny Hill still

Another highly controversial aspect of the tapes is the frequent appearance of the "Hill's Angels," a chorus line of scantily clad dancers whose alleged gyrations sparked a 1994 U.N. petition for full disclosure of the tapes.

The dancers—whose propensity for provocative leg splits and slow, lascivious writhing near poles and ladders can be seen throughout the tapes—have long been regarded by British leaders as "a potentially devastating source of international embarrassment."

"The so-called 'Hill's Angels' parts of the tapes, inasmuch as the models position themselves in reproductively suggestive poses and make flagrant and suggestive eye contact with the camera, appear, in all likelihood, to have been deliberately edited into the footage with clear and demonstrable gratuitous intent," said Archibald Binway of the London Protocol Office. "Such open acknowledgement of the female anatomy by a British national is an unthinkable breach of the public trust."

These disturbing images were withheld for years by the British government.

The tapes' release sparked celebration among the many activists who have fought to have them exposed.

"At last, the truth about Hill is revealed before the entire world," said Sean Wright, whose near-fatal 1987 hunger strike as one of the infamous "Benny 11" helped raise international awareness of the cover-up.

"That bastard slapped me granddad upwards of 1,500 times back in the '70s. And why? Because his short stature made him an easy target? Because his bald, shiny head, God bless it, made a humorous thwacking sound when smacked with an open palm?"

Wright's grandfather, veteran stage performer Jackie Wright, has become an enduring symbol of Hill's legacy of abuse toward the elderly.

But even as the facts of Hill's abuses come to light, there remain some who maintain that Hill was a victim of circumstance. Sympathizer Edwin Fripp, 42, of Leeds, contends that Hill's scandalous behavior was, in many cases, unintended.

"When Mr. Hill grabbed women's chests, it would usually be as the result of an accident: Often, he'd do so unaware of the fact that a mannequin he'd been undressing had been switched with a real woman while his back was turned," Fripp said. "And that time he was caught entering a women's changing room at the beach, he did not do so out of a desire to see women naked. No, it was also an accident, as the letters 'w' and 'o' on a sign labeled 'Women' were covered with a towel."

"In each of these cases, Mr. Hill received vicious, angry slaps from outraged women, even though he did not deserve their attacks, having committed no intentional wrongdoing," Fripp said. "Must we continue to heap blame upon the memory of a man who has already been punished enough?"

Such apologist voices, however, are clearly in the minority.

"In perhaps the most controversial portion of the tapes, the so-called 'chase' scene, there is little doubt that Hill is acting with premeditated malicious intent," said Kyle Dunkirk, one of the leaders in the legal battle for the tapes' release. "Lasciviously chasing a trio of nurses across a tree-lined field, Hill steps up his pursuit as the women become entangled in branches, causing them to lose progressively more and more layers of outerwear until they are clad only in brassieres, stockings, garters, and knickers. As the chase goes on, more and more people join in, including a man with one foot stuck in a bucket, a policeman covered in cake, and, eventually, even the outraged wives of the male pursuants. All the while, Hill remains relentless in his amorous pursuit, oblivious to the protests of all parties."

"These tapes add insult to injury," Dunkirk said, "as fast-motion photography lends a jerky, inhuman quality to the chase participants' motions as they proceed single-file into the sunset."

Whatever the societal ramifications of the scandalous footage's release, one thing is clear: The haunting image of those fast-motion runners will remain etched in the conscience of Britain, and the world, for a long time to come.

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