GBT Joe, Hell Capone, and the Great Theatre Wine Heist The following entry features a reconstruction
of events that allegedly took place, but there is every chance that they are the work of a psychotic fantasist. Four years ago, I was working in theatre. Whether backstage, or front of house, there is no work environment like it in the world. Of course, things have changed now. These days, it's so much more about making money, when it should be about getting drunk and having a rollicking good time. This kind of attitude is a proud tradition that stretches back through the ages, and I am sorry to have seen it go. My time in the world of glitz and magic caught the tail end of the glory days, when the last burning embers were dying. But my friends and I managed to squeeze some life and not a small amount of fun from the remains. I met one of my dearest friends whilst working in front of a well-known London stage. GBT Joe, a gay Buddhist Tory, was allegedly sixteen at the time, and so shouldn't have been working in the establishment at all, but anything is possible when you work in the most camp, motley, and mickey-mouse establishment in the West End. We eventually became very close, and our department formed a tight-knit little enclave of "resting" actors, dancers, and of course, the staple bunch of students. Every Saturday, when we had to contend with both a matinee and evening performance, we would spend the one or two hours between shows stuffing our faces with junk and getting as drunk as possible. This was practically an unspoken company policy, no matter how many managers might have disagreed. I was a floor supervisor at the time, and spent many a Saturday evening trying to avoid falling down the stairs of the upper-circle, as I drunkenly guided customers to the opposite end of the auditorium to where their seats were located. I would reassure them that I did in fact know where we were going, and back we'd skip. I always got it right the second time. Of course, all of this implies that I didn't care too much about standards, but nothing could be further from the truth. I firmly believed in a good time for all, whether employee or punter. My sense of fun may have been overactive, but I was as passionate about taking care of the audience as I was about being naughty. No, I really was. Sadly, all of our escapades were overshadowed by the seething mass of incompetence and idiocy that was our manager, and he was the most dangerous variety. The kind that desperately attempts to seize control, whilst simultaneously having no idea what to do with it. Let's protect his identity and call him Dezza. Despite the fact that Dezza shared our love of booze, commonly turning up to meetings with a ruddy nose and spouting crap, we despised him. Anyone who has watched an episode of the British version of The Office will understand the kind of man I am speaking of. All one has to do is transfer the action to a theatre of lunatics, add a generous dash of alcohol, and somewhat reduce the IQ. On the opening night of a show about a coat and some biblical kid, this was the man who launched us into a night of work on the stuff that legends are made of. As we sat in a large semi-circle of chairs listening to our pre-show pep-talk, we watched a red-cheeked man
GBT Joe and I amused ourselves by flitting through the auditorium to stage door. Dezza also believed very firmly in the principles of capitalism. As we wiped the flecks of spittle from our faces. so one had to race to the bar to get some cheapo fizz before it ran out. Perhaps this influenced his thought processes during times of minor crisis. and most importantly. bathing the
. It would seem that the drink had crossed several wires. I wish I could say it was due to the amount of booze we threw down our necks. Never one to see his kids go without. but they were also busy getting pissed. as I would always insist on over-dressing after work. Dezza looked at me with his vacant. for the free bar and party that came with them. images of a wheel-chair bound Joseph and his brothers danced in our heads. Inside was a bounty the like of which we had never known. GBT Joe would usually make it down to the dress circle bar first. But it was good enough for us. Uncle nodded towards the back room. which we were used to dealing with by raiding the sweets kiosk for its sugary goodness. It was alcoholic. disabled children. and more importantly. Tired. I fail to remember most of the events of the night in question. And lose two quid? Hooo no-no-no. and the bag of sweets in his pocket which he liked to pass round to the girls. we paid him a final visit. The first night of the show about the biblical kid was no exception. abused. Nevertheless. vigorously jumping up and down and telling us that this was a show about fun. After that it was cheapo wine and cheaper beer. He was characterised by a healthy sense of mischief. part of Dezza's profits. free. and fed up with being trodden on. though he was uncertain of how to best utilise them to help our venue reap any profit. After seeing the warning signs. which made the made the oozing back-slapping speeches from the luvvies more tolerable. each one with his own special special-need. We discovered that Dezza had had a prior management meeting with a woman from a charity to discuss better access for disabled people into the theatre. there was much imbibing going on. The powers that be never believed in spoiling their children. Towards the end of the evening. soul-less and said. most likely lamenting the fact that the bar was fast running out. The fireman of the night was Uncle. It was usually staffed by our stagedoor keepers.frothing at the mouth. family. My friend and colleague who worked in the catering office happened to be a diabetic. and to suggest we open a packet of Jelly Babies. we looked forward the opening and closing nights of shows. I marched into the foyer to inform Dez of the problem. We could almost hear the choir of angels. and see the golden beams descending from the sky. "Haven't we got any Coke that's gone off?" Such was our lot. which was manned by one of our much-loved theatre firemen. GBT Joe and I pushed the door open and wandered in. On one occasion he had a funny turn. but it's probably due to chemical intake of subsequent parties.
"Don't stop now. desperately seeking an excuse not to from our beloved Uncle. We were animals. Not nearly enough.. We instantly knew that this was not enough. By this point. our little hands snatching bottles and shoving them in bags as fast as we could. oblivious to the bottles exploding over the top of the carriers. in plain view. taking it home. black little souls. and drinking it all for ourselves? By the time we started seeking reassurance that Uncle would protect us. we no longer recognised ourselves. It would have to do. drunken crazed animals. "I've never felt so alive!" said GBT Joe. we began to debate the issue. When I say walked. For. God had even ensured they had been packed in ice. a boyfriend who worked backstage. "Neither have I! We are so bad.. Would we be caught? Did anyone know of our whereabouts? Could we afford to lose our jobs? Was it in fact God's will? Didn't Dezza owe all of us a little something for the way we had been treated? Wasn't it just desserts. so bad. I don't think I can stop. so I turned them out. and looked none to impressed. I found some lost property which had been placed in old carriers . I think I can get some more in here. I mean my feeble body was almost buckling under the weight.. he
. for lack of space.. GBT Joe had been more sensible. I heard myself laughing like a hyena and panting as if I was in the throes of the best orgasm of my life. and that he had indeed suddenly turned very blind and deaf. It was the perfect crime. the boyfriend had arrived at stagedoor. We began to root around stagedoor for more bags. with no idea of the gutter his girlfriend was now wallowing in. at the end of the day? Weren't we striking a blow for all of our colleagues by raiding this bin of wine. and GBT Joe began to slow down.large black dustbin in their heavenly glow. it was at the point of disintegrating. grape-sodden room. That glorious. we began to realise that it was now time to stop and make a break for it. a battle of morality beginning within our drunken. chunks of ice spraying the floor. that humble bin was filled to the brim with small bottles of white wine. We ducked back out of the room. sooo bad. Perhaps because the remnants of a half-decent upbringing still beat in our hearts. more!" I knew I had an advantage. Still. I made my way outside with a look of selfsatisfaction on my face. As we descended upon the bin. average sized rucksacks. This was foolish." I said as I pointed at a carrier that was so full up. GBT Joe and I calmly walked out of the room. the decision had been made." Our rucksacks were now bulging at the seams. but with two strong carrying arms nonetheless. but none too surprised either. crazed as he was. As we hyperventilated and furiously tried to magic more bottle space from thin air. since it was he whom accidentally nodded us in the direction of the room in the first place. GBT Joe and I looked at each other. "Or I could find more bags! We need more. We looked at our bags.
Once he got passed twenty. He went first. We tried to talk ourselves out of panic. but being weighed down so much. and for a few fleeting moments. and blossomed into total recall." "You took more than me.had only filled up his single rucksack.
. I on the other hand had to now contend with carriers about to snap." "Not that much more!" "Darling you did." "We're dead. We were so dead. we were trying to fathom how on earth we succeeded in carting quite so much wine home. And then it was my turn. How many did you take?" I was in denial. "What have we done?" "Darling. And then we were forced to acknowledge the fact that the wine was shite. I rather needed a brown paper bag to breathe into. it was quite hard to make out the counting through the hysterical. we were possessed. very bad indeed. cataloguing each bottle down the phone. We put it down to the amazing feats that the human body can achieve when taken over by instinct. There in the hall. lest we be caught on the way to the station. but you can't put a price on the euphoria that comes with being very. and then GBT Joe convinced me that we better start counting. GBT Joe managed to clock an impressive fifty. we could only manage a hobble. and of that. I remember us trying to urge each other to walk faster. At first we started guessing. We were beasts.. Then the flashes from the night before began. I was at peace.. I dialled GBT Joe. Wrestling with a burgeoning panic-attack. I was convinced. I got past fifty. Oh God. I know. Soon I had eighty bottles of wine in my fridge. the discarded bags of sin burnt themselves into my retinas. It took us months to get through the fucking things. and when we weren't doing that. nervous laughter. I crept downstairs. Fifty small bottles of theatre white wine.
The following morning I awoke. and a boyfriend who resented bearing my <strike>stolen</strike> borrowed goods. lined up like squalid little beacons from the night before. Once I got past sixty.