Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Friday, March 09, 2007

I'm free, no longer

You’ll probably have heard about the recent death of actor John Inman, renowned for his portrayal of tres camp menswear assistant Mr Humphries, in the 1970s/80s department store-based sitcom “Are You Being Served”. A sad piece of news. I had mixed feelings about the character of Mr Humphries. He could be very funny, with his smutty humour and constant line in double entendres. Yet, he also reinforced the stereotype of gay men as effeminate, mincing and ineffectual, which, at the time, didn’t exactly help to promote a positive image for gay people and probably encouraged people’s prejudices even further. Still anyone with an ounce of nous will know he was but one facet of the gay persona. Mr Humphries had his moments and could certainly raise a chuckle or two. He even released his own single, which played on his token catchphrase “I’m free!” The lyrics are reproduced below and are in best "Carry on" tradition - I love them.

And on a related note, the “Are You Being Served” theme itself is fabulous and one my faves. It starts off with ringing cash registers and a seriously funky bass line, then the voice of a female lift attendant cuts in, announcing the different floors/departments: “Ground floor, perfumery, stationary and leather goods, sweets and haberdashery, kitchenware and food, going up!" I love it so much I have it as the ring tone on my mobile.

Anyhow I digress slightly. Here’s the lyrics to “Are You Being Served, Sir” by Mr H. Delightfully risque and suggestive.

Are you being served Sir?
I’m Humphries and I’m free.
Are you being served, Sir?
What would you like to see?

If you'd like some swimming trunks
We've got them plain or spotty.
We've also got some see-through
That really tan your...

Lady lift attendant: Beachwear!

Oh! These are gay,
There's plenty round the back
And if you like a bit of flash
Then try a plastic mac!

Are you being served Sir?
I’m Humphries and I’m free.
Are you being served, Sir?
What would you like to see?

Lady lift attendant: Going up!

You'd like a suit?
Well suit yourself.
Our three-piece is first class.
I'll find one with tight trousers
That fit well round the -

Lady lift attendant: Kitchenware!

Oh these will do,
I'll take them off the peg.
Now hold your breath and brace yourself -
Here comes the inside leg.

Are you being served, Sir?
I’m Humphries and I’m free.
Are you being served, Sir?
There's no-one here but me.

Oh, where's my tape measure?
Oh I know, I left it inside my fair isle drawers for safety.
No-one dare go in there.
Not without my permission anyway.
Here we are!

Hasn't it been a funny day for drying?

Is your loose change left or right?
I must know for the count.
I'll measure you from your ankle
Right up to your -

Lady lift attendant: Menswear.

I've one in tweed,
Thanks heavens, just your size.
But first I want my hand back,
It's trapped between your thighs.


Are you being served, Sir?
I’m Humphries and I’m free.
Are you being served, Sir?
There's no-one here but me.

I'm sorry that this fitting room
Is rather dark and chilly.
Just try these on and mind that zip
In case you catch your -

Lady lift attendant: Sportswear!

Oh goodness me,
Look someone's turned the key
And if we're stuck in here all night
I'm Humphries - and I'm free!

Are you being served, Sir?

RIP John Inman!


  • At 10:47 am , Blogger Steve said...

    Yeah God bless John Inman. My nan loved him which has got to be an endorsement. I love the Are You Being Served theme tune too - when I first started acquiring mp3s it was one of the first. How sad is that?

  • At 1:12 pm , Blogger TimeWarden said...

    I was saddened to hear of John's death too. I'm sure he was aware that David Croft and Jimmy Perry's scripts deliberately parodied what it means to be gay just as Warren Mitchell can't be accused of undermining attempts to rid the world of racism through playing Johnny Speight's character, Alf Garnett.

    I suspect the writers were really saying, through John, do you really believe gay people behave like Mr Humphries, 'cos we don't! And who can forget Mrs Slocombe's pussy? God, I've been trying for years!!!

  • At 6:43 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Steve - it's not remotely sad, the theme tune is seriously groovy! (Considerably more so than the series itself, I might add).

    Timewarden - I guess you could look upon the scripts as parodying gay men, and I'd like to believe your view. But I do still think that, given the lack of positive representation of gays in the media at the time (the mid 70s - mid 80s) the character didn't altogether help. Unfortunately there are less discerning individuals out there who believe what they see and aren't clever enough to read between the lines i.e. I think there probably were some people that believed that was what gay people were like, as a result of Mr H's character. Still that's their problem...and I can't deny the humorous side to Mr H, the song being one such example!

    Mrs Slocombe's pussy was another matter entirely!!

  • At 3:05 am , Blogger BILL MEEKS said...

    hi cheeser, thanks to wonderful people like you, ive finaly found that song ive been looking for. Thank you Old Cheeser.Im an Actor (on tv atm, the ACCINET guy for claims, but I played Mr Humphries in the stage version of AYBS, and I received a lovely letter of kind words and support from him.What a shame, a lovely lovely man.
    My address is
    I'd be pleased to forward you a photograph of me in that role.
    Yours sincerly
    Bill Meeks


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