Monday, 18 April 2011

Danny Baker is alive and kicking

Before Christmas Danny Baker announced he had got "a pretty mouldy diagnosis", and henceforth would be an intermittent visitor to the airwaves whilst undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy (Danny: "Yes radiotherapy; can you beat it?").

A world without Danny Baker would be infinitely poorer - he has inspired so many people to attempt to become radio presenters, and continues to do so. We as an industry should be grateful that Danny is a one-man recruiting service for our medium.

I'm listening to Danny's first show back on BBC London right now. So is David Hepworth, James Wickham, Jon Moonie and many tens of thousands of other people who love the man dearly. It is effortlessly, shambolically, wonderful.

Danny started his show with Stanley Holloway's My Word You Do Look Queer - a paean to other peoples' perceptions of your own illness. At the end of this he opened the mic to say "And that, is the story so far", before launching the Beatles' Get Back on us (refrain: "Get back to where you once belonged").

If ever there's an elephant in the room, Danny will mount it, and then within five minutes have it performing tricks, nuzzling up to you or charging you down, usually within the same sentence. This means the rather difficult subject of his own illness became a source of fascination and joy.

One of the first anecdotes described the gifts he'd received from many thousands of well-wishers (to get an idea of how loved he is, read Danny Kelly's piece about the effect of being associated with the great man). Danny thanked everyone for the books and films and pictures and records and made a point of saying he had read every card and every letter and was immensely buoyed up by them. He couldn't help singling out a curious gift from a chap who worked in the City. Said chap had sent him a cheque for £2000 pounds with a letter saying how he appreciated that illness or no, there were still bills to be paid and hoped the money would help in some way.

Everyone in the studio was suitably impressed by this rather touching gesture. Danny quickly repeated that it meant no more to him than all the other gifts he had received, the books, the films, the records, the pictures, before suggesting, on reflection, it obviously meant more than the £500 cheques he'd been sent.

Later discussions revolved around his guaranteed Sympathy Sony. The Sony Radio Academy Awards are radio's Oscars equivalent. They take place in May and Danny is nominated for two this year (neither in the non-existent Sympathy category). Danny was speculating that they must be gearing up to give him a Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the Sympathy Sony package and eventually ended up deciding he should have delayed his comeback until the night of the Sonys, stayed behind the scenes all evening, and when they announce he's won an award, come charging out of the kitchens in a bath chair.

One genuinely good thing has come out of Danny's cancer. Well, genuinely good for me, anyway. Danny said on his show that he was so bored by his enforced absence that he's finally succumbed to twitter, where you can find him writing as @prodnose.

Unlike George Michael's slow and rather painful journey to understanding what twitter is about, Danny is instantly one of the funniest people on there, and if there is any sports writer able to top his 4 tweet analysis of yesterday's incredible 1-1 draw at the Emirates, then please tell me.

For those who weren't listening/watching, Arsenal (managed by Arsene Wenger) scored in the 8th minute of injury time to go 1-0 up through a penalty. It should have been all over, but Liverpool (managed by Kenny Dalglish), won a penalty in the 12th minute of extra time and got the equaliser and the draw. How did Danny write it up?

Call from Arsene Wenger. He feels he's not taken seriously because of his heavy accent. In France apparently, he sounds "Just like Harry".

Keep thinking Arsene has hung up but its just he leaves long depressed pauses. I keep saying "Anyway..." but he doesn't take the hint.

Apparently AW waited outside ref's room for an hour then found it was broom cupboard and ref had gone. Try to disguise my laugh as coughing.

Finally get rid of AW when Kenny D. calls. He's giggling hard. Had I heard about AW and the broom closet? I say yes but he tells me anyway.

Now I wouldn't wish cancer on my worst enemy, let alone one of my all time heroes, but if it has the effect of making Mr Baker's genius a touch more accessible, then it is true that every dark cloud does indeed have a silver lining.

God bless you Danny, I'm very glad you're back.