The Two Gerrys
Above are photographs of Gerry Duggan and Gerry O’Driscoll respectively, one looks like a doorman and the other was one. So far, so what you may say, but these two unassuming Irishmen played significant cameos in two of the most iconic works of the 20th century, better make that three technically; one by design, the other by accident. One offered a screen-test that would have made a big film franchise a lot more credible, the other offered the bones to another big film franchise’s screenplay, making it infinitely more credible. Let’s dig deeper on this unlikely supposition.
GERRY DUGGAN: DOUBLE O TURTY TREE AND A TURD
Gerry Duggan never achieved stardom, but was a respected stage and TV actor having come late to the game just before turning 50. His was very much the tale of the wandering Irishman. Born in Dublin 1910, he moved to New York at 16 at the height of Prohibition before settling in Australia. How a man in the Antipodes made acting inroads at 49 for parts in Europe shows impressive dedication. A good working title to his autobiography would be ‘From Pinchgut to Poopsnaggle’ being the bookend roles he played in his long career. Ironically, he was beaten as the best British newcomer for the former role at the BAFTA’s by a 13 year old Hayley Mills.
He claimed his on stage highlight was with the role of McLeavy in Joe Orton’s revival of Loot in 1966, but in 1964 he was starring in Beckett’s play The Old Tune in its British debut. Considering how fussy and hands-on the maestro was, that was quite an achievement in itself. Perhaps the fact that they were roughly the same age and exiles from Dublin helped the cause. However, 1964’s real highlight for Gerry was getting to be in the biggest film of the year.
That role, although relatively small, was one that begs a big ‘what if’ to the writer. He played the part of Hawker, Bond’s caddy in Goldfinger with such fine lines as ‘if that’s his ball, I’m Arnold Palmer!’ Goldfinger is commonly regarded as the best of the Bond films, so all things considered, Gerry D starred in only one Bond film, but it was the one to be in. Plus, he is one of the few sidekicks to survive intact. The golf course scene may lack the bang-bang swashbuckling of other set pieces in a Bond film, but it perfectly captured the wit and guile of Bond and the menace of Auric Goldfinger* and indeed Odd Job. Let’s not forget the extravagance that adversaries at that level enjoyed – their Aston Martin DB5 and Rolls-Royce Phantom III Sedanca de Ville waiting for them in the car park as they upgraded from a shilling a hole to a £5000 bar of Nazi gold.
I think the producers missed a trick by not using Gerry D later on in the franchise; he had the perfect name, Hawker, he had a good rapport with Bond and he was smart. Best of all, he was low-key – the swagger of his boss was not his bag, if you’ll pardon the pun. There’s something inherently ridiculous in having a drop-dead gorgeous hard-drinking gambling Lothario as the ultimate secret agent. Sure, Bond had the glamour, the girls and the gadgets, but all he was missing was a klaxon to announce his arrival anywhere. In reality, we’d no sooner have seen the opening titles and Bond emerging from the telescope lens than we’d hear a muffled thud from a sniper’s rifle and the blood that filled the screen would be that of Bond himself, roll credits, Bond will not be back in Thunderball or anything else, thank you very much.
What Bond needed – without a bullet hitting him before the film even started – was a sweeper, a low-key intelligence gatherer that could be a master of disguise and add a bit of levity while they were at it. Whereas Wooster had his Jeeves, and to a lesser extent Inspector Clouseau had his Cato Fong, Bond needed a Hawker to do, as a friend of mine would call it, the ‘gullymushing’. And the fact that he was Oirish worked out very nicely with a view to mixing it up with multiple accents and disguises in later films. Playing up as the advance party/guy who did the necessary groundwork was the way to go – the baddies were expecting a Brit in the form of a womanising peacock, not a fellow you’d nearly throw a coin in his hat if he doffed it at you!
One short film
Later Bond films had a cantankerous M played by Judi Dench having a lot more say in the films, but that was just to satisfy a stage dame’s status rather than really helping the plot out. Licence to Kill did have Q having a much bigger role and it was a better film because of it, despite yet another wooden performance by Dalton. So when I looked at Goldfinger once again recently, I thought there was a minor role that tapped along nicely. Hawker, as the baddie’s stalker, would have worked if the producers had any imagination going. It would have allowed for exposition along the avuncular lines of Carl Reiner in Ocean’s Eleven.
The movie has dated badly in parts with many a questionable line for other minor parts. One of his Bond’s ‘squeezes’ gets nothing more than a ’Dink, say hello to Felix Lighter, now Dink say goodbye Felix,’ before getting a slap on her arse and instructions that there’s men talk to be done! The dutiful Felix himself completely misses the fact that his colleague was in danger and shrugs it off saying with Bond it is all about dames or drink. At least when Hawker appeared, he was on the ball and helping advance the plot – again, my apologies for yet another woeful pun!
Cut to the changing rooms and the two lads sorting out payment. An admonishment to Bond for having to lug his sodden 25 pound bar of poxy gold around merited the line ‘ye know, I thought it was a bit heavy to be a few ham sandwiches‘ would have fitted the overall tongue-in-cheek tone nicely and helped establish the beginning of a beautiful friendship. In handing over the caddy fee with a bonus, Bond could then have handed him his card and told him to give him a shout in a week or so – ‘you’re as good ash gold there, Hawker’. Set up established.
A nice tongue in cheek look at the scene in detail
The week before, RTÉ screened Dr. No. where the franchise all started. Rumour has it Ian Fleming described it as ‘dreadful, simply dreadful’, but it was perfect Cold War fodder and by Goldfinger, it was a juggernaut. For some reason the broadcaster skipped Bond #2, From Russia with Love**. In both films, we see Eunice Gayson as Sylvia Trench, Bond’s girlfriend before they quietly let her slip off without explanation. So the producers were open to minor recurring roles, they just got it wrong in terms of a truly handy fellow agent to augment the action and not some poor girlfriend Bond would be cheating on five minutes later.
In a parallel universe, I see Hawker working diligently and successfully as the ultimate wingman, the secret agent’s very own secret agent, enjoying the perks of the ridiculously glitzy world as the Mickey Sixpack everyman. Let’s go even further – howsabout making Hawker the real brains of the operation à la Ben Kingsley’s Watson to Michael Caine’s Holmes in Without a Clue. Then again, an Irish Svengali being the brains of how the British Empire saved the world time and again may just be my patriotic fervour getting the better of me!
GERRY O’DRISCOLL: THE FIRST JEDI BEFORE THE GUINNESS SETTLED
Gerry O’Driscoll,a.k.a. GOD, is a man that has enthralled me for some time. I even put a letter in to The Irish Post in 2019 to see could I find out a bit more about him with no success, therefore adding to his mystique. He has been lost in time to the streets of Kilburn where his fellow Irishmen had either died, moved home or got priced-out from the slow and insidious gentrification of the whole area.
In the early 1970s, GOD worked as the doorman at Abbey Road Studios in St. John’s Wood and would have seen all of the big stars come and go in his time there. He was the perfect man for such a job as he was neither star struck or one to sell juicy gossip to the tabloids. Chances are he’d have been more star struck by Big Tom or the now late Brendan Bowyer up the road in the ‘Galty than any hipster skipping up those hallowed steps.
Pink Floyd were recording their iconic Dark Side of the Moon at Abbey Road in late 1972. One of the many original touches devised was to ask a series of random questions to a range of people who happened to be around the studio at the time. The audio samples generated from their responses would then be sprinkled throughout the album. Roadies, staff and liggers were all asked these odd questions; Popsy Watts, Floyd’s road manager’s wife, Roger ’the hat’ Manifold and Chris Adamson were the roadies that featured on the final cut of the album. The band Wings were in Studio 3 recording Red Rose Speedway and they too got asked the random questions – Henry McCullough from the band passed the test, but the most famous mouth in the studios did not.
Paul McCartney’s interview answers ended up on the cutting room floor. A rock legend he may have been, but he simply didn’t cut it on what Waters wanted from the exercise. Waters deemed his answers unusable. “He was the only person who found it necessary to perform, which was useless, of course,” Waters told Pink Floyd biographer John Harris. “I thought it was really interesting that he would do that. He was trying to be funny, which wasn’t what we wanted at all.”
Enter one Gerry O’Driscoll, doorman of Abbey Road Studios, who rocked up to the mike and created something that Macca could not do; he spoke truth to power, well rock power at any rate and nailed it first time. Gerry elicited in one take, with no script and no rehearsal his thoughts on a handful of leftfield questions thrown at him by Roger Waters. It’s like something from a fairy-tale, where the gallant prince is cast aside in favour of the infinitely more eloquent local farm hand for the top prize at the royal court. At the height of the Troubles, a straight-talking no-nonsense Irishman with an accent as thick as the day he got the boat over remained calm and focused as he spoke his piece where a Beatle had abjectly failed.
Hear about Gerry from 4.30
The questions asked ran from the mundane to the profound – what is madness, greed, violence, a favourite food, a favourite colour, the anticipation of death, why do rock and roll bands split up and what’s their perception of what the dark side of the moon is about. With such a flurry of non-sequential abstract questions, the notion of getting some humdinger responses seemed slim. However when crafted together, like all all other parts on the album, a magic carpet of wonder had been woven.
Chris Thomas played a delicate, but brilliant role as the final arbiter over Waters and Gilmour in the mix, Alan Parsons was the engineer who elevated the album to greatness, Clare Torry’s tour de force voice on The Great Gig in the Sky, Gilmour’s gizmos, Wright’s inspired note ‘borrowing’ from Miles Davis, Waters’s ’sixth form’ lyrics (as he called them) and somewhat unexpectedly, the man who would give the greatest cameo in rock history, Gerry O’Driscoll. Looking back on what they’d all achieved, Nick Mason said ‘I think that when it was finished, everyone thought it was the best thing we’d ever done to date, and everyone was very pleased with it. It was … not only about being a good album but also about being in the right place at the right time.’ This sentiment may refer to the zeitgeist, but it equally applies to GOD’s contribution. Thankfully, the band were gracious enough to thank him in this highly-regarded documentary about the album below.
Of the questions asked of GOD, the following were used in the final cut of the album: –
#1 0.43 Speak to Me ‘Do you think you might be mad?’
Gerry: ‘I’ve always been mad, I know I’ve been mad, like most of us are. Very hard to explain why you are mad, even if you are not mad’.
#2 0.39 Great gig in the sky ‘Does death frighten you?’
Gerry: ‘I am not afraid to die. Any time will do, I don’t mind. Why should I be frightened of dying? There’s no reason for it — you’ve got to do it sometime’.
#3 6.00 Money ‘When were you last violent and were you in the right?’
Gerry: ‘I certainly was in the right!’
#4 1.37 Eclipse ‘What do you think of the dark side of the moon?’”
Gerry: ‘There is no dark side in the moon, really. Matter of fact, it’s all dark’***
Clare Torry originally got the princely sum of £30 for her singing on the Great Gig in the Sky, but as anyone who hears it will testify, she completely transformed that song. She successfully sued the band in 2005 and now gets joint co-writing credits for the song and no doubt a nice slice of the pie to boot. The lawyer in me says that if someone who gave a wordless contribution to the song can get 50% of the action, then GOD who effectively gave the only lyrics to the song was entitled to a share too. Thankfully it is a moot point now, but I suspect GOD got even less, if anything, for his contribution which just adds to the man’s cachet.
Dark side of the rainbow – another fun rabbit hole to explore!
Dark Side of the Moon confirms the theory that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Putting the big sprawling plan together, everyone involved managed to achieve something breathtakingly original in sound and vision. While there is an album ascendancy with Waters at the top as creator and lyricist, Parsons bringing his magic, Gilmour his guitar, Clare her voice, GOD very much holds his own – it is a case of less is more from a taciturn Irishman. Yes, GOD needed their genius to slot his bon mots into the right places, but the album would simply not be the same without his words of wisdom. ‘Stuff like that, when you put it into a context on the record, suddenly developed its own much more powerful meaning’ Gilmour told Louder Sound magazine.
What GOD brought to the album was the potency of a truth teller, who when combined with the rest of the magic, became an immortal cosmic seer. Between not being afraid of dying, being in the right in a conflict and portentous talk of the dark side, GOD was Obi-Wan Kenobi some four years before Alec Guinness ever raised a light sabre.
I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to think that George Lucas, along with the rest of the world, heard GOD’s words again and again from its release on the 1st March 1973 as he was working on the bones of what became Star Wars. Lucas began writing the first draft of it in January 1973, ‘eight hours a day, five days a week’ by scribbling small notes, conjuring up odd names and assigning them possible characterizations. These initial names and ideas were used to compile a two-page synopsis entitled Journal of the Whills, which told the tale of the training of apprentice CJ Thorpe as a “Jedi-Bendu” space commando by the legendary Mace Windy.
Concerned that his story was too difficult to understand, Lucas began writing a 13-page treatment called The Star Wars on April 17, 1973, which had thematic parallels with Kurosawa’s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress. While Lucas’s film is heavily reliant on that 1958 film for structure, Lucas seemed to get into his writing stride from Spring 1973. I’d contend that by throwing on the must-have record of the time, Dark Side of the Moon, Lucas would have been repeatedly exposed to a disembodied foreign voice with an ethereal echoey quality whispering pure Jedi creed. Goodbye Mace Windy, hello Obi-Wan Kenobi via GOD.
Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher as well as most of the crew believed that the film they were making was the biggest load of space garbage going and was destined to flop. What makes it credible – along with John Williams’s music and the ground-breaking visual effects of course – was the presence of Obi-Wan Kenobi. When you hear the clips, Guinness does sound remarkably like Gerry, strangely enough. One got £56m sterling for his efforts, the other got diddly-squat; I hope Sir Alec remembered to raise a Guinness or two to a certain doorman in a galaxy not too far away from him.
Dark side of the Guinness
So there you have it – two Gerrys who happened to be in the right place at the right time, both having interesting footnotes in pop culture. Alas, Gerry D never got to have the Bond sweeper role; in fact he didn’t make another film in the 60s, but at least he ended the decade on a high. As for the other Gerry, a.k.a GOD, no doubt after he finished up that recording, he went for a cigarette break and got back to work. If anyone ever mentioned the album when it came out, I suspect he just shrugged his shoulders and couldn’t see what the fuss was about having never actually heard the album.
Years later, Ireland got to have its very own Bond in Pierce Brosnan and indeed its very own GOD in Bono, but I believe these two low-key journeymen did something special. One role not fully realised with the other role only realised and relished through the passing of time and repeat listening. Give me the two forgotten Gerrys over the two famous lads any day; two old codgers you can imagine at opposite ends of a bar in the west of Ireland, one as cute as the other, but from the wise-words-softly-spoken school of thought, not giving a jot about what anyone thinks of them. Now that is true stardom.
*In truth another Irishman can lay claim to another forgotten part in Goldfinger, that of the Irish actor Michael Collins who dubbed every line of Gert Lobe’s character so he could be understood to audiences.
**The film Kennedy watched the night before going to Dallas.
***Gerry had added ‘The only thing that makes it look light is the sun’ which was edited out.
There’s a tenuous Beatles link between the two Gerrys. In reading up on Gerry Duggan, he alluded somewhat diplomatically to the fact that Joe Orton was killed by his jealous lover as that lover had found out about Orton starting a relationship (and I paraphrase) with the manager of a well-known band who would be dead from suicide two weeks later.