the works of Robert Calvert / annex

Centigrade 232 - the book launch

[a memory report by Sandy Cameron]
The launch took place way back in 1977 at Battersea Arts Centre in London.
Punk was all the rage then, but the theme of the evening seemed to be a sixties style "happening".

I wasn't quite sure what to expect as I'd only ever seen Calvert in Hawkwind mode and the only poetry readings I'd been to were quite starchy events. But this one was different, there was no formal seating only a few chairs scattered about and performers and audience were mingling about like it was a party.

Calvert was there dressed in a plain black suit, waving around a long cane cigarette holder, though I couldn't be sure whether it was actually a cigarette in there or something more exotic. Judging from the smoke haze permeating the air I think it was probably the latter. He'd invited along some fellow poets of his acquaintance - Pete Brown of Cream fame, Daevid Allen of Gong, who was too rat-arsed to do anything and Gilly Smyth who performed her piece naked except for a covering of multi-coloured body paint. It was that sort of night.

The evening progressed in merry mode with performers jumping up on stage to do their bit.
The dramatic highlight came whilst Robert was on stage doing a sketch involving playing mock Russian Roulette with a pistol whilst reading a poem (I forgot which one).
At the end of the sketch he had survived (quelle surprise) and as he was about to go on to the next thing, a young lad from the audience called out "That gun's not loaded! Why don't you really shoot yourself?"
This heckle seemed to have the effect of a red rag to a bull on Calvert who demanded to know where the heckle had come from. The lad identified himself gingerly, I think the was beginning to lose his nerve at this point as Calvert was now climbing down off the stage and advancing stealthly towards him, pistol in hand. When he was about 5ft away he said "Well, maybe I don't feel like killing myself today, maybe I'll shoot you instead" and pointed the gun straight at him. Well, this lad just freaked, I don't think I've ever seen anyone quite so scared. Personally I think his reaction was a bit over the top as it was obvious that the gun was only loaded with blanks, of which Calvert had already fired 6 shots to his own head to no avail.
And the lad had said only a few minutes ago that he thought the gun wasn't loaded. I think it was just the way Calvert was so intense in his manner that people get taken in.
Anyway, the lad ran off at this point and Calvert went back on stage to carry on with the show.

I have met people who were not present at this event who have related to me the version they have heard of this particular incident. It seems to have passed into folklore as a sort of "CALVERT-THE-MANIAC-RUNS-AMOK-THREATENING-AUDIENCE-WITH-LOADED-GUN-SHOCK-HORROR".
Anyway this is what happened from an eye witness who saw the whole thing and I'll leave it to you, gentle reader, to make up your own mind. Mad man or poser extraordinaire?