Those of you with short-term memories unimpaired by habitual consumption of exotic
cheroots or addiction to cable TV, may recall my promise to secure a fearless interview/
expose on the life and times of one JOHN CONSTANTINE.
How fascinating, I thought, and relevant to our lifes to sift through the enigmatic
variations of this secretive man's experience. Teams of dedicated researchers, more diligent than the FBI,
were employed. Surreptitous deals were made - closely guarded phone-numbers coaxed oe extorted from unwilling
trustees. At last, contact was acieved, and a meet, on neutral territory, arranged.
Thus it was that a hot and gritty summer evening found me forsaking my customary happy-hour cocktails to cross the river, South,
into 'injun country'. My mood was buoyant. I could already see the cover-story.
'Satchmo Hawkins - John Constantine exclusive.'
So, faithful side-kicks, stick some Tom Watts on the stereo, unfetter your imagination, and follow me into the heart of darkness.
Believe me, I could use the company!
* * *
Not far from Clapham Junction, after much meandering up and down dark, narrow streets and blind alleys, the cabby ceases his torrent of invective -
mainly illustrative of some of the finer aspects of inter-species sex - and brings his chariot to a squealing halt outside a public house of less then salubrious demanour called
THE BUTCHER'S HOOK. Great, you think, tremendous atmosphere : working-class street cred...perfect. You pay the cabby (over the odds, but what the
hell, nobody's going to query the expenses for a John Constantine interview)!
The interior of the dingy bar is reminiscent, in atmosphere and colour, to the lungs of a forty-a-day man. The walls practically drip nicotine.
You regret wearing white !
No sign of Constantine yet - just a couple of solitary geriatrics silently watchung their half-pints of mild ale evaporating. Poor old sods, you think.
Must be hard to
keep yourself in beer and fags when you're living on a pension.
You order a pint or lager from a barman who is doubtless an ex-wrestler - his head looks like an engine block perched on a neck of old, bald, tyres. He overcharges you by at least a pound.
He knows you won't argue. He's right!
Arriving before Constantine gives you a chance to check that the new Jap recorder is working and run through your interview strategy.
Start off with a bit of harmless chatter about music - the rise and fall of punk, etcetera - while you loosen him up with a few drinks.
Then perhaps hit him with the 'Super-hero connection'-should get a good quote out of the rumours about him and ZATANNA.
That might lead us into the occult stuff, the Newcastle exorcism, the haunted cabinet-minister and such-like
stories. You'll have to go steady on Newcastle, though. He might be a bit touchy about that one...
Three hours and eight pints of strong lager later, it dawns on you that Constantine isn't going to show. The
bar is now jam-packed full of serious drinkers. The conversation at the table next to you - between some very heavy looking types -
although largly inaudible, has been providing some interesying snippits which seem to concern the proposed route for a 'Securicor' armoured car and possible
methods of detaining and opening said vehicle.
You decide to have one more drink to give Constantine a final chance for a late appearance. You struggle through the press
toward the bar, which appears to be at least three deep in
copulating hippopotami-an illusion brought about by cheap alcohol and air practically opaque with cheap cigarette
The hippos are, in reality, thirsty building workers - dangerous but not so exotic. As you have no desire to end your life by coming between
an uncontrollable beer-belly and its tenth pint of Friday night Guinness, you hang a swift left and veer into the toilet.
It's like stepping hell. The toilet gully is choked with sodden fag-ends,
the floor awash with a malodorous lake that laps around the welts of your
sky-blue, Italian leather shoes. Before you think to hike up your chinos, the turn-ups have darkened
ominously. Necessity overcomes distaste. You steady yourself with one hand pressed against the clammy wall, idly wondering what diseases are transmittable cutaneously.
A line of graffiti snarls bitterly at eye-level - DROP THE BLOODY BOMB, NOW! PUT US ALL OUT OF OUR MISERY. The sentiment seems eminently agreeable.
The interview of the decade has turned into a total debacle.
As you turn to paddle gingerly out of the festering swamp, the door opens and two of the armoured car freaks from the next table walk in. They have faces like
matching tombstones. With downcast eyes, you move to pass them. A hand the size of a small car leaps towards your face. There is a sharp crunch somewhere
deep inside your head - suddenly you are sitting on your backside in two inches of stagnant micturition.
A heavy brogue shoe plants itself firmly in your ribs. You feel the new tape-recorder disintigrate. The pain makes you feel sick. You are sick!
One of the tombstones looms towards you and a hand rips the fragmented electronics from your inside pocket.
"See-told yer'e was wired. Who d'yer reckon'e is, then ? The Old Bill ?" "Nah,
even the Bill wouldn't 'ave a nancy boy like 'im on the force. 'E's just some soddin' reporter!"
One of the giant hands crushes your wind-pipe and lifts you, dripping from the floor. With graveyard breath, the tombstone speaks into your face. "Lissebm you effin' nosy bastard. We're the Dodkins Bruvvers, see. An'if yer
come snooin' arahnd dahn'ere again, we're goin'ter nail yer effin' 'ands ter the floor. Geddit?"
They drag you, leaving a stinking, wet slug-trail, through the bar and propel you, sprawling-inexpressibly grateful for their mercy-into the gutter. A minicab pulls up. The driver winds down the window
"You a party name of Satchmo 'Awkins?"
You nod dumbly.
"John Constantine sent me. Says 'e's sorry but somethin's come up. 'E's gone to New York.
"I'm s'posed to take you 'ome-but you ain't getting in my car in a state like that! You smell like a dead dog, mate!"
You watch as he speeds off up the street. It's a two-hour walk to get homw.
* * *
And that, gentle reader, is the story of the interview that never was. So, if sometime we're liggin around the same bar,
introduce yourself. We'll talk about the weather, the Gross National Product or the plot of Dynasty - but don't mention John Constantine to me.
I never want to hear that bastards name again!