In February 2004 “The Big Yin” Billy Connolly played a gig in my home town of Invercargill, New Zealand. I was involved in Koru Care, which was an organisation established by Air New Zealand staff to provide holidays for terminally ill children. One of my pet projects, incorporating my ‘graph-ic vice’ was asking well known people to produce a doodle using a circle. The intention was to produce a book, entitle Celebrity Circles to assist our fundraising.
Anyway, back to Billy. He’s staying at the Ascot Park Hotel. On the day of his show, The Southland Times published this toon:
I thought I would drop a copy of it to Billy to sign for me, along with a blank circle and an invitation to participate in the Koru Care project. The show was brill, and a couple of days later I received a package with my signed cartoon, and a drawing for Koru Care.
Buoyed by this success, I was spurred to try again and to ask him to write the book’s intro as well. Soon enough, this arrived in the mail, which made my day:
In 2009, Billy was part of the cast of Gulliver’s Travels with Jack Black. He played King Theodore, ruler of Lilliput. One of the exterior locations for filming was the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London. This gave me an opportunity to catch up with him and to thank him in person. He seemed genuinely delighted to receive a copy of the book and we grabbed a quick pic before the director, Rob Letterman, called ‘action’ for another scene.
In case you find it difficult to read Billy’s intro above, here’s the typed version:
“Normally while on tour I ignore the vast majority of requests that come to me, mainly because I don’t have time to fulfil these requests and secondly because I don’t know whether the people involved are genuine, or perhaps a bunch of beige cardigan people trying to capture me and talk incessantly about the weather. Sometimes, though, a request comes through that kind of irritates me, that gets under my skin and won’t go away, like one of those awful songs do, like ‘Never on a Sunday’. Such was the crappy begging letter in Invercargill from Koru Care. Not only had I to squander my precious showbiz personality twice by autographing the cartoons of some unknown artist, but I had to do a drawing as well! The nerve! The gall. Don’t these people know who I am? Don’t they know my standing in the fabulous world of showbiz? Aren’t they grateful that I tour their weird little country where birds don’t fly, but where people keep trying to by means of bungy.
In a mood of bonhomie and joie de vivre I succumbed to their requests and duly signed and drew stuff and sent it off, feeling enormously charitable and human, a feeling I don’t experience too often. Two days passed, and lo and behold, another request arrives from the same people! After picking my chin off the floor, flabbergasted at the cheek of these people who now want me to sign and date the drawing which I had so gratefully, no, so graciously drawn for them! When does it all end? Will they be moving in with me, stalking me? I have changed all my hotels and my phone numbers to try and shake them off.
By all means buy this worthwhile book and treasure it, even encourage others to do so, but please take my advice, don’t give them your address.”