Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
21 March 2016

When WHSmith started selling porn next to the Kinder Eggs, I set out on a clean-up mission

Imaginative porntrepreneurs were starting to push the boundaries of what was acceptable, producing increasingly exotic titles such as Orgasms for the Over-Forties and Foreplay for Your Silver Wedding Anniversary.

By Armando Iannucci

So, how did I end up screaming down a pornographer’s lift shaft? It was over 20 years ago. I’d produced some Radio 4 comedy but now, in 1993, I was appearing in front of the microphone for the first time. I was making a documentary series called In Excess, in which I voiced contempt for over-saturated modern living. Various episodes castigated time management gurus, health addicts, ostentatious millionaires and Lycra enthusiasts.

Today, I was out recording a couple of interviews about sex. My Taliban-esque argument was that there was simply too much of it. “Lover’s Guide” videos had been swamping the market, making “educational” and explicit sexual imagery handily available in branches of WHSmith, next to the car mags and Kinder Eggs. Imaginative porntrepreneurs were starting to push the boundaries of what was acceptable, producing increasingly exotic titles such as Orgasms for the Over-Forties and Foreplay for Your Silver Wedding Anniversary.

My contention was that these were all just repackaged pornography masquerading as daytime viewing, and I was on my way to speak to the director of Kama Sutra in 3D with a copy of his video in my bag. I was also carrying a couple of copies of For Women magazine, a new glossy bringing male frontal nudity into the mainstream.

We arrived at a Soho editing house and Brian King, my producer, suggested as we got in the lift that I set the microphone running. The idea was to get some vérité sounds of me greeting the director as we arrived at his floor. Brian had won prizes for that sort of thing so I went for it.

The lift stopped and the doors opened. I saw a smiling guy in a clean white shirt walk towards me with his hand out, saying, “Hi.” I put out my hand – and screamed, “Aaaaaaaargh, aaaaargh, Jesus, aaaaargh,” as I fell to the floor. I’d caught my foot where the lift didn’t quite align with the corridor carpet, twisted my leg and toppled over in shock and agony with a dislocated knee.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

I remember two things as I fell. One was the smile falling off the director’s face like a cake of cold ash. The other was him shouting: “Get my PA to call an ambulance.”

I lay jabbering half in the lift, half out, at great inconvenience to important clients who now had to take the stairs. An ambulance crew arrived and expressed disappointment: I later found this was because they’d mistakenly been told a man had fallen down a lift shaft. I was given gas and air, bundled on to a stretcher, taken down the stairs past rioting clientele, and put into an ambulance. The gas and air was making me feel woozy. I was losing consciousness. I tried to fight it. I had to stay awake – if I arrived at the hospital asleep, the nurses wouldn’t know anything about me. And then they’d look in the bag.

Content from our partners
What you need to know about private markets
Work isn't working: how to boost the nation's health and happiness
The dementia crisis: a call for action

This article appears in the 05 Apr 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Spring Double Issue