61. Dirty

Tapehead no 61 

There’s an uncomfortable feeling running through Inside Story’s Telephone Terror that the people telling their stories have been terrorised twice; once by the anonymous callers who targeted them for obscene or threatening phone calls, and once by the BBC.

The cases have been investigated by the Special Bureau set up to monitor the 15 million nuisance calls made each year. That’s a lot of nuisance. 

Chilling and hard-hitting, Inside Story matches the callers for voyeurism. Tapehead can think of no reason why a young mother needs to be asked to repeat details of obscene threats made against her young son – especially as she is later attacked and then abducted.

When a female bureau investigator expresses her hope that a pregnant woman receives more obscene calls that day (so they can trace them), we hear a researcher ask (a little too eagerly): 

“Do we know what the caller said?” – even though we can read what he said perfectly well from the report on the desk: “I am going to rape you.”

Then when two young girls are asked to answer a potentially -obscene call from a paedophile, a reporter immediately gets the girls to repeat what the caller said to them. (“He was talking about his bits,” one of them says, casually.)

Like the callers Inside Story seems to take particularly prurient delight in making harmless, slightly puzzled, old biddies repeat rude things, that have been said to them, particularly one who was ordered to go round to her neighbour’s “and gag her with your knickers.”

Finally, they feature a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Margate where KFC workers, Julie and Julia, stand blithely repeating some of the obscene calls they’ve had – “What underwear are you wearing ? How big are your tits ? Et cetera.”, remembers Julie.

With a monotone boredom that Peter Cook would have envied, Julia adds, that the caller “said things like…oh, suck his cock; juicy fanny. Stuff like that.”

According to the programme, the suspected caller “later admitted making obscene calls to the Kentucky Fried Chicken”, presumably things like, “Peck me, peck me,” and, “Get your beak round his one, baby.”

In this week’s Errol Morris’s Interrotron Stories (about as bad a title for a series as you could dream up), a Post Office manager from Arakansas recalls how he was stalked by a madman he gave the sack to. Sadly, Morris has made the (true) story needlessly hard to follow, cutting it into fragments, and seemingly filming them in the order they landed. The shaky Interrotron technique makes the erratic camera work on NYPD Blue look like Inspector Morse and other material is strangely sketchy. (We only see a picture of The Stalker near the end).

When the Stalker eventually went on the rampage, killing several of his colleagues, the Post Office manager got the blame – for pushing him over the edge. He ended up being stalked by even more colleagues than he was before – more stalkers than you could shake a stick at in fact (or a stalk at).

Personally, though, Tapehead can see why. His reverence for the Post Office is frankly pathetic and, close-up with his little side-smiles and mad twinkle in his eyes, you can see the manager is even crazier than the Stalker.

With Sharon Stone’s bizarrely brief cameo as a White Trash Scary Person living in a trailer park in Roseanne this week, Ricki Lake – I’m proud to be Woman in the KKK – concentrates on the real thing. 

Rachel, June, Bobbi and her 15 year-old daughter, Misty, line up looking like a particularly dolly country and western group, with daunting Jackie Collins jewellery and Barbie Doll hairdos. Misty explains how she felt there was “too much racial tension in the town she grew up in” – so she joined the Ku Klux Klan.

Ricki predictably runs rings round them but fails to press them on why the KKK women all wear clothes that look as if they were made out of old frilly curtains.


Errol Morris’s Interrotron Stories; Tue, 11.15pm-11.40pm, C4

Ricki Lake: Thu, 5pm-5.45pm, C4

Inside Story – Telephone Terror: Thu, 10pm-10.50pm, BBC1

Roseanne: Fri, 10pm-10.30pm, C4