Published On: Thu, Oct 26th, 2023

Kinky Boots, houndstooth coats …and Dorien’s Like A Virgin karaoke | Books | Entertainment


Geoff Deane wrote the screeplay for hit musical Kinky Boots

Geoff Deane wrote the screeplay for hit musical Kinky Boots (Image: )

It remains pure sitcom gold. Lesley Joseph as Dorien in Birds Of A Feather performing a hilarious version of Madonna’s hit single Like A Virgin in a karaoke competition – while lying on her back and scissoring her legs in time to the beat. So it’s no surprise the man behind this glorious moment, scriptwriter Geoff Deane, was no stranger to pop.

“Lesley’s a real old-school trouper and a fantastic comic actor, and she really knocked it out of the park,” recalls Deane, who came up with the idea for the 1992 episode in which sisters Sharon and Tracey think their only chance of having a holiday was to win one in the karaoke contest.

Just 11 years earlier, Deane had been a Top Of The Pops sensation as the lead singer and main songwriter of Eighties pop band Modern Romance who hit the big time in 1981 with Everybody Salsa. They followed that with another club music winner – Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey: the band’s 1981 hit which soared into the UK Top Ten despite being self-consciously naff.

But it was just another short chapter in a remarkably varied life for a man who has never been content with what he has got and has always been looking for something else.

Today the tattooed and wispy-bearded Deane, 68, is a picture of domesticity as he grapples with an economy-size packet of dishwasher salt the size of a small television.

He had two dozen kitchen rolls delivered earlier in the day to his house in London’s South Woodford, forgetting he already had
a stash.

“I hate it when I haven’t got what I need,” he laughs. “This is making my life seem terribly exciting, but deep inside I have a dream that if I keep hitting ‘subscribe and save’, one day I will have everything I need…”

Even his brief pop stardom, he explains, was just trying to find the next big adventure. When, having been unimpressed by school, his father offered him a job as a sales rep “with a car” for a furniture firm, he admits, “It terrified the life out of me.”

A brief stint as a hospital porter was not the answer, so making something of one of his twin loves – music and American sitcoms – seemed like a plan. He and his mates had started a punk parody band, the Leyton Buzzards, but their prospects were limited.

Deane admits: “Making money with the Leyton Buzzards was never about earning money, it was about making music with friends, but if it was going to be a career then we did need to sell some records and that’s when Modern Romance was born.”

The band was formed in 1980 by Deane and fellow Leyton Buzzard David Jaymes, and the breakthrough came after they recruited trumpet player John Du Prez, whose instrumental, along with the catchy melody, helped make Everybody Salsa a playful anthem for the rave generation.

Musician and writer Deane, whose wickedly funny memoir has just been published, explains with a sigh: “This will remove all the
mystique, but my girlfriend at the time wrote a column reviewing records for a teen magazine.

“In one song was a catchy line that sounded a bit wrong, so I kept humming it until it sounded right. And then I thought it sounded like it should be played by a trumpet with a Latin American vibe.

“I don’t know why. And that is how Everybody Salsa went in the direction it seemed to be going. See, it’s not half as clever as you think.”

Modern Romance achieved a string of UK chart hits, but although Deane thought he was walking towards “a glittery sparkly thing”, when he actually arrived he realised that he was in fact chasing after something else – he just wasn’t sure what.

“By the time it had settled in, I was kind of losing interest but I had to keep doing records,” he says.

While your average boy band popstar might have thrilled to such success, Deane, being a rather cerebral chap, knew that there had to be more to life than producing club music and he quit at the height of the band’s success. Having turned his back on the heady pop scene he did that thing no other Eighties pop star did and became a script writer, inspired by his love of US sitcoms.

Geoff Deane reflects on his success

Geoff Deane reflects on his success (Image: )

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That included providing material for Birds Of A Feather, the TV favourite originally devised by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, and starring Linda Robson, Pauline Quirke and Lesley Joseph.

“I wasn’t trained to do anything; I’m not particularly well educated, but I do get obsessed with things. Thank heavens it was the time of the VCR recorder.

“I spent hundreds of hours watching things like Cheers, Roseanne and The Golden Girls, and after I had studied them and drawn up a blueprint, I started writing,” he says. “When I started working on Birds Of A Feather, I looked around at a bunch of funny people sitting around a table trying to make each other laugh and thought, is this my job now? Fantastic.”

After the success of the episode Okey-Cokey Karaoke in series four, Deane says: “I was asked to write the (1993) Christmas special, where the sisters try to track down the father they’ve never known. It pulled in 20 million viewers so we must have been doing something right.”

In the early 1990s he wrote “the bit at the beginning” of “Tonight with Jonathan Ross” and also worked with him on Saturday Zoo a couple of years later.

Ross made a big impression. “He struck me as someone who never needed a scriptwriter for anything. He’s very funny and very talkative. I was very fond of him. I like enthusiasts and he doesn’t try to act cool. If he liked a movie he saw the night before you would find yourself pinned to a wall while he told you all about it.”

He also wrote 1994’s hugely popular gay anthem You Think You’re A Man for drag star Divine and went on to write the screenplay for 2005 hit Kinky Boots, with Tim Firth, which inspired the Tony-award-winning Broadway stage show, with music by Cyndi Lauper.

Other memorable celebrity encounters are recounted in his book in which Deane clearly takes delight in wickedly ruffling a few feathers.

“I don’t want to offend people unnecessarily,” he tells me, “And I will go out of my way not to upset people – unless they deserve upsetting.

“There is a body of people out there who are obsessed with a misplaced word here or there, but it’s what’s in people’s hearts that really matters.”

He says he recently had dinner with a friend who is a TV and movie script supremo, and is now a senior lecturer at a very well known establishment.

“Three glasses of wine in and he was telling me what a f*****g minefield it is out there at universities now: ‘One thing wrong and they are jumping at you.’ Personally, I don’t like being told by people a good deal younger than me that this is how to do things.

“Every generation always thinks they have the answers. The problem now is that anything you say is there and readily available. It’s a road that leads to insanity.”

Deane could have considered a career in stand-up, but says that by the time he was thinking about it, it had already been discovered by “drunken city boy oiks” who liked to make life difficult for the performers. “I know I can be a little bit scrappy myself, so I decided that writing would be a better thing.”

And Deane is certainly not above some bad behaviour of his own. He was once cajoled by a producer into a meeting with Michael Flatley, the Irish dance supremo.

The meeting didn’t go well from the start when Deane was asked to take his shoes off when he arrived at Flatley’s palatial Knightsbridge home.

“Flatley liked to talk,” he says. “And boy could he talk. He wanted to make an action movie with himself as the star. He talked at great length about what a great James Bond he’d have made. The fact that he was known for Irish dancing and could comfortably fit inside a matchbox he did not seem to view as any kind of disadvantage.”

There is an unwritten rule that such meetings run to around an hour. Three hours later, Flatley was still holding court. “I did escape eventually. As I reached the door, I noticed a pair of expensive-looking shoes by the door. I had them away under my jacket and closed the door behind me.” He lobbed them over a wall on the way home. “Small payback for what he’d put me through,” he smiles.

From Mohair Suits to Kinky Boots by Geoff Deane

From Mohair Suits to Kinky Boots by Geoff Deane (Image: Geoff Deane)

Other meetings have been more productive. In the early 2000s, he found himself sitting down with David Furnish, Elton John’s partner, to discuss his script for It’s A Boy Girl Thing, a commercial American body swap romantic comedy which was produced by the pair in 2006, and based on Deane’s script.

“I’m a bit of a fashion victim and I had a houndstooth check coat on. I went into David’s office. His settee was made of the same material and I sat down and basically disappeared. It was the exact fabric, it must have been made by the same person and, like a chameleon, I vanished.”

Despite this temporary set-back, the movie was made and Geoff flew to France for the premiere at Elton John’s chateau near Nice.

“It was a huge party with all these people. I met Lulu and said I want to shout – I don’t think she found that funny – and Liz Hurley. It was such a buzzy day. Then I left and came home and my entire house was flooded. So a few hours after being at Elton John’s chateau I’m knee-deep in water on the phone to a plumber trying to tell me how to turn a stop-cock off. I can never seem to make that final step,” he muses.

  • From Mohair Suits to Kinky Boots by Geoff Deane (Muswell Press, £16.99) is out now. Visit expressbookshop.com or call Express Bookshop on 020 3176 3832. Free UK P&P on orders over £25



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