Peter Cook/Chris Morris transcript

Broadcast on Radio 3 a year before Cook's death on January 9th, 1995, the following are extracts from five rare conversations recorded by the confused, rambling and, best of all, hugely offensive Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling (who made his first appearance in Not Only But Also in 1965, where he spoke about teaching ravens to fly underwater). This is the final appearance of Sir Arthur; and the interviewer is Chris Morris.

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling is known - home and abroad - as an entrepreneur, politician, humanist and explorer. His controversial projects - such as testing designer drugs on imported orphans - have led to strained relations with the media. In 1968, he broke Malcolm Muggeridge's arm in two. Sir Arthur has refused to be interviewed for more than ten years, so what follows is a unique chance to hear the reflections and opinions of Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling in conversation with the broadcaster, Christopher Morris.

Morris: Sir Arthur - it does interest me - why did you agree to these interviews?

Sir Arthur: It's really very simple. I've lived a long time, I've been distorted, I've been misrepresented, and I've been quoted accurately - which is perhaps the most appalling. And I thought that, in simple conversation with another human being, I would get some things off my chest and on to other peoples'.


Morris: Right, we're almost ready to go. Have you done this kind of thing before?

Sir Arthur: Erm, I... a long, long time ago, in the Sixties, with John Freeman, I did a face-to-face thing, but he was a hopeless amateur... broke down and wept half way through the interview.

M: How did it resolve - that particular encounter?

Sir A: I gave him a hanky and told him to pull himself together. I also did a bit of an appearance on The Tube with Paula Yates and Jools Holland... played a bit of boogie on that. But, I've never done radio before - so this is all a whole new world to me.

M: Sorry, I wasn't listening to that. Are you ready to go?

Sir A: Yes, I'm off any minute.

M: Sir Arthur - your work with eels is very well documented. It's perhaps less well known that, during one experiment you very close to death. How did that happen?

Sir A: I was trying to test the strength of the eel, and whether its strength would be enhanced by an injection of thyabizalime; which, as you probably know, is a steroid used by Betty Grable in the early days of Hollywood, which gave her those wonderful legs, because she was born with legs only three inches long and her parents were determined to have a world-class film daughter, and through the administration of this drug, and what is called 'tugging' - pulling by the ankles - they managed to get Grable's legs up to the required film star length.

M: Wasn't there also a functional problem this process - sometimes things got horribly out of hand?

Sir A: Yes. There was one occasion - I don't know if you've seen the sequence - but there are out-takes in the British War Museum which show Grable starting off a dance routine with the very long legs and winding up basically looking like a tea cosy. And the effects were variable; there were many days she couldn't shoot because her legs got, frankly, too long for comfort.

M: But they weren't just long, were they? They flexed backwards.

Sir A: She could walk both ways, yes which was an effect which startled Louis B. Meyer one time. Louis was on his casting couch, casting himself, and suddenly he thought he saw Betty Grable walking in - but, in fact, she was walking out. And that got up his nose. He was easily slighted.

M: Let's get back to you, fighting the eel on the table. I believe, during the course of the encounter, you did, very nearly, die. Did you ever think: 'I don't care if it kills me?'

Sir A: Well, there were moments when I thought - well, I've had a long life, and I've had a varied life, and I've had just about enough of it, really - all these bloody eels. Bloody, bloody eels. As soon as you get hold of one, it starts slithering all over the table, and you ask it the secret of its jaw movement and it doesn't say a bloody thing, So, I was tempted. But, there was work to be done, and it will be done, and I will be done.

M: It makes one sorry to hear you talk like this. Many would say that, before the eels, you were a different man.

Sir A: Well, before the eels, of course - I was caught up in my love life. I don't know I you remember the cha-cha boogies of Hamundo Ross... but Lita Rosa was a magnificent singer - rather similar, in a way, to Jama Cogan without the bounce. And, we had... not an affair, more of a correspondence. I sent her a postcard from - I think it was Tibet - and never got a reply, because she was a married woman. So it all petered out.

M: But you still haven't recovered. There's something... unresolved about that relationship.

Sir A: I'm not easily given to tears, but not hearing back from Lita was a bit of a bodyblow.

M: What was it about her that moved you?

Sir A: Her name, I think. Lita. Lita, Lita, Lita. Rosa, Rosa, Rosa.

M: And, as a result of this disappointment, I believe you dived headlong into a life of ill-advised abandon.

Sir A: Yes, to try and forget her, I embarked on a series of meaningless affairs. They weren't even flings, they were... nightcaps.

M: Did you ever meet Eric Clapton when you were there?

Sir A: Several times. He was frightfully nice a great comfort to me, Eric. Because he's been through so much, hasn't he? I mean - having to play the guitar all the time - must be absolutely awful for him. Yes. Eric is... a pathetic individual, really. Give me Ginger Rogers, or Ginger Baker - whatever the other one is. The one who went to Africa and taught the natives how to play the drums.

M: You were arrested, with a gun, in the vicinity of Eric Clapton's apartment in L.A.

Sir A: Not arrested. I was, erm, taking part in the racial violence in Los Angeles after the Rodney King incident.

M: Which side were you on?

Sir A: I was trying to mediate, between the police and Rodders. I got to know him very well - a very nice chap. We were having a Big Mac together, and the police blundered in to finish off a job that - y'know - they hadn't completed. So I tried to mediate, by saying, 'There he is, officer!" - to try and calm things down, because, you know, one hates to see Los Angeles go up in flames unless one's got a camera running.

M: That was reported in one of the Sunday papers at the time, as: 'The Dark Soul Of Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling'. That night was a trail of wanton destruction, which many ascribed to your near-death experience leaving you bereft of any hope.

Sir A: I like to think I mowed down as many whites as I did blacks. I mean, the Koreans did very badly out of the whole deal.

M: Do you feel any pride now?

Sir A: I feel nothing but pride. That's all I do feel. An empty pride. A hopeless vanity. A dreadful arrogance. A stupefyingly futile conceit. But at least it's something to hang on to.

M: And the fact that you got away...

Sir A: With murder, yes. Let's not mince words.

M: ...and had to pay a menial fine...

Sir A: Well, I don't know what you call a 'menial fine'. I had to do community work. I had to go and teach Tatum O'Neal to play tennis.

M: Is there anything left for you to do, once you've finished with the eels?

Sir A: I've still got to work on her backhand.


Morris: In your address to the Royal Society tomorrow, you intend to reveal the fossilised remains of the infant Christ. How do you feel that will go down?

Sir Arthur: Well, it is a remarkable discovery. A group of us were up in The Promised Land - as I believe it's called - and we were just rooting around for some sticks to start a fire with, and, by some accident, this tiny little form had been preserved perfectly. So I picked it up, put it in my knapsack, brought it home and had it scientifically examined at my institute... It's Christ at the age of about nine months -just beginning to walk. Well, more crawling than walking... crawling across the desert in search of, um, followers, really. And then, of course, he died.

M: So, what are the implications, then? Christ was fossilised when he was that small...

Sir A: He was practicing resurrection. Because, if you're going to resurrect yourself in front of thousands of people, and found a religion on it, you don't want to make a cock-up, do you? So, from a very early age, he was dropping dead and resurrecting himself. There are probably thousands of bodies of Jesus, and this is just the youngest one.

M: A series of larvae.

Sir A: Almost. Yes. Pupae. In fact, he never really got it right at the end. It's not as if he was pronounced dead on the cross, and then flew up and flapped his wings and said, 'Hello, boys!' He chose a rather complicated way... had to be put in a cave, with a boulder put in front of it... Paul Daniels could do that. So he never really got the hang of it.

M: Could you tell how quickly these practiced resurrections happened?

Sir A: He took about six months. He died - as planned - then, just as he was passing away, he suddenly forgot how to do it. But instincts carried him through, and gradually, he resurrected himself - by which time he was under the sand, so he also had to fight his way to the surface. And, of course, he died whilst doing that.

M: Suffocation.

Sir A: Suffocation, yes. He was smothered by sand. So, he died again, and there's some controversy over whether my tiny Christ is in fact the nine-month-old or the nine-and-a-half month-old one.

M: This fits in with your theory that, as Christ practiced resurrection throughout his life, he didn't do it flawlessly, did he? He produced several of himself at once.

Sir A: There was a time when he overdid it, and produced 18 other Christs. So he had to wipe out 17 of them.

M: But he had to stop them resurrecting themselves once they'd done it.

Sir A: Yes, he had to keep them underwater. I think St. Paul mentions it in passing.

M: Have you spoken to the Vatican about this?

Sir A: I've had words with their envoy over here, and he's absolutely thrilled to bits and has suggested a venue where we could put it up and where it could start earning its keep.

M: But does he know that you intend to clone from its tissue?

Sir A: No, I haven't gone into that with him because, frankly, it's none of his business. And it is a business.

M: Who's putting up the money for this?

Sir A: Honda.

M: Now when, or if, this is successful, what do you feel the result of it will be?

Sir A: Well, I am very much hoping to be the first to shake Jesus by the hand, and say, 'Well done!'

M: How far are you prepared to take this? Say the experiment is four-fifths successful, and you end up with some animated tissue which is not particularly man-like, would you allow that to carry on living?

Sir A: I would go on gut reaction. I think if one had three-quarters of Jesus, you'd know that it was Jesus, and I would settle for that.

M: What diagnostic signs are you going to go for? Breathing? A voice?

Sir A: A voice, yes. But he could sign his message - you know, wave his hands about like they do on Channel Four.

M: Who would provide the words, in that case?

Sir A: Well, then we'd pre-record something with Martin Jarvis or John Hurt... somebody suitable could do the voice-under.

M: Project a little moving shape over his mouth...

Sir A: Yes. Probably just with an elastic band, we'd get some movement.

M: And where would the words come from?

Sir A: Oh, we'd just do what he said in the Bible. You know - the same stuff. What he said was perfectly good.

M: I think you know what I'm getting at. I'm trying to find out whether you will be using Him as some sort of conduit for your own warped ideas.

Sir A: No, no. It will be his warped ideas, not mine.

M: And what role do BMW play?

Sir A: They'll be furnishing the vehicles.

M: Will He not be frightened by modern transport?

Sir A: Yes. The Sony Corporation are interested in a sort of hover-donkey, That could move at about a hundred-and-ten miles an hour.

M: Now, I'm told that the Japanese are more seriously involved than that.

Sir A: Er, in the militarisation of Jesus, yes. Given His consent, of course.

M: And what will the Japanese do with these miniature Christs?

Sir A: They will market them in the normal way, because there are a lot of people out there who are yearning to find Christ and who don't have the time to go out and look for him in person... who would like to have Christ through the letterbox.

M: How will the Christs eat?

Sir A: Through a tiny little tube that will be supplied.

M: And how will you guarantee their safety against...

Sir A: ... theft?

M: And dogs?

Sir A: Well, showing a tiny Christ to an alsatian is like showing a red rag to a... whatever they're called. Big things with horns.

M: Bishops.

Sir A: Yes. But, there are no guarantees. You've got a tiny Christ, he's six inches high, he's about - ooh - three centimetres deep, and he has all the organs.

M: Where do they come in?

Sir A: Look, I don't want to... I mean, you're rather pre-empting my address tomorrow.

M: All right, well let me put it to you like this. Don't you think, that if you clone Christ, He will in some way want to remonstrate with you as soon as he can?

Sir A. Well, that's up to him. But he'll be pretty lost without the batteries.

(c) BBC Radio 3. First broadcast January, 1994.