Not reMoatly interested

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

                 It was fun working in Newcastle over the weekend. The Hyena Club, at which I’ve seen good comics die and great comics struggle, has somehow always been wonderful to me. Not sure what it is, but maybe just the mix of music + comedy + American is different enough from what they’re used to that they give me a lot more space. There was one black mark on the weekend’s shows, but it did little overall damage.

                On Friday night, murderer-fugitive Raoul Moat,  who made boasts through his Facebook page of the evil deeds he was planning, was tracked down, and was in a stand-off with police in the small village of Rothbury, some 30 miles north of Newcastle. A week earlier, only one day after release from prison on assault charges, he spoke on FB about his contempt for policemen, as he believed his ex-girlfriend was now taking up with one. The man in her life was in fact a karate instructor, but Moat didn’t care about the facts. He shot the man, the ex-girlfriend, and an intervening police officer, though the latter two have so far survived.

                   How a crazed man with a heavily pumped-up body could hide in a town of 1700 people is beyond my comprehension, but even worse was the reality-TV spoon-fed masses who wished to see him continue avoiding capture, not thinking about an armed and extremely dangerous man who’s expressed a desire to kill anyone who gets in his way. It was tough enough for the locals to deal with strict orders to stay indoors, especially since Moat had been able to break into houses to steal food and had also held up a chip shop. Now they had to deal with thousands of police and National Guardsmen who were brought in to aid in the search, and the media frenzy as well. 

                  Moat was found in the early evening hours on Friday, but managed a 6-hour stand-off in mostly wet weather before finally shooting himself at about 1:30 AM, dying in the hospital a couple of hours later. I was happy to be working during this media farce, but in retrospect, felt sorry for the TV news reporters sent to Rothbury. BBC News set up continuous coverage of the stand-off, while the in-studio newsreaders had to keep saying, “So anything new out there, John?” “Well, no, Bill, he’s still got a shotgun pointed at his neck, oh wait, he’s just scratched himself—” “And in our exclusive live coverage, we now know that Raoul Moat has indeed scratched himself. Thank you John.” It went on like that for most of the night. The viewers who toughed it out for those six hours eventually got to see a man kill himself on live television. Is that really worth staying up for? Worth even missing Jonathan Ross show for?

                     Moat definitely was known in Newcastle, as he’d been a bouncer at a club there. I had to deal with some Moat fan-clubbers, who I’ll give credit for sensing the sickness of making this horrible man a celebrity for all the wrong reasons, but was still surprised that not everyone was delighted to hear me say “Fuck him!”  

                      The circus here reminded me of the same one surrounding O.J. Simpson in LA 16 years ago. At least O.J. was famous for something before he became a murderous lunatic (I suppose there are still those who believe he was framed, but none of them vocalize it anymore). When it was clear he was about to be arrested, he and his best friend tried to flee to Mexico, but the cops spotted them. Thus began a low-speed chase on Interstate 405, and not only was his van flanked by cop cars all going 10 MPH, but crowds had gathered along the sides of the freeway to chant “Go, OJ, go!” or something equally stupid.

                  Like the Moat stand-off, this was on a Friday, and I had an out-of-town gig. My favorite memory of listening to radio reports while driving to my gig was when someone called live on the broadcast saying he was a psychiatrist who’d had OJ as a patient. When he had succeeded in convincing the staff that he was legit, he began his analysis of OJ’s problems. A couple big words here and there, culminating in “I think OJ is headed home now so he can watch the new Howard Stern pay-per-view show. (Click!)” They’d been humiliated, and you had to laugh. When I got to the gig that night, there was a TV showing the 7th and thus final game of NBA basketball play-offs, but in the corner of the screen was the “car chase” being played live so that in case OJ leaped out and shot himself, we could catch that as well as a tense ball game. 

                   After OJ surrendered, his trial moved even slower than his van did, lasting over a year, culminating in his acquittal. He’s in jail now on a lesser charge. I really can’t remember what the charge was, and he’s been in for a couple of years now, but it was clear he was going down if all he’d been arrested for was being late on paying a parking violation.

                   I moved to the Brentwood area of LA while the trial was still going on. At the time, tourists were flocking to see OJ’s house and the house where the murders happened. It was pathetic to see foreigners posing on the front porch of the murder house in the same position OJ’s ex-wife and her friend were found. Eventually some wealthy man with a sense of shame bought OJ’s house (and immediately tore it down), and another group bought the ex’s house, built a wall around it, and changed the street address. Let’s hope in the wake of the Moat story, that chip shop owner in Rothbury doesn’t decide to exploit his encounter. “Before Raoul Moat cashed in his chips…”  


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