The Sissons Situation
16 May 2002
The Mystery Machine started revving about '98. I was working as a film editor for the BBC. Nothing terribly exalted, just snipping the ends of footage, making the riots going on behind and to the right of the newsreader's head run for just long enough that he can tell you what you need to know about them. It's omnipotence of a sort, but the sort is limited to a cutout in the corner of a TV screen, so I wouldn't get too envious.
Anyway, money was pretty tight at the time, so I did a fair amount of freelancing - just popping into the edit suite at night to work up the odd actor's showreel or snip the ends off a corporate motivational video that had gone over time at the studio they hired. I had a fair few friends in the industry, and I was pretty cheap, so the work was steady and kept me in Embassy No.1 and Kronenbourg. Nobody really minded - the edit suites were generally seen as a compensation for the shitty pay and never actually getting to meet the celebrities we were theoretically working for.
On any given night, when I was crouched over "James Navison - Motivational Speaker" ("He crossed the Atlantic. Now he's coming to YOUR presentation or corporate/sales meeting with the secrets of SUCCESS"), half a dozen other editroglodytes were mooching about, jemmying the coffee machine for free liquid shit. There was a definite trick to that particular make of coffee machine, which meant anyone in shitty jobs in the "entertainment" industry, or at least the bits of it associated with torn green felt walls, never had to pay for a cup of steaming brown nasty from 1989 onwards.
Even among the stained corduroy crowd, I was a bit of a pariah. No obvious nastiness, of course - this lot had curvature of the spine so intense that they would struggle to have beaten themselves up. Just a certain froideur, on account of my venality. The rest were all working on their films, each and every one of which was going to revitalise the British film industry. Things got quite competitive when two of the squirrelly little wankers happened to bump into each other in the corridor.
Hello, Brian. How's Filthdick?
It's going really well, thanks. Another few months and I reckon we'll be ready to start looking for a distributor.
Huh. Of course, distribution is where the pressure to sell out becomes really intense...
Like geek sharks circling, trying to make the other one admit that they were less "for real". Given their morbid fear of selling out, I'm happy to report that none of them even got a theatrical release, much less a sold-out house. Keepin' it real...
Oh, yeah. So this night I was doing a promo piece for one of the lesser-known newsreaders - you know, why not have the trusted voice of x at your trade launch, kind of thing. Just splicing together a greatest hits, basically.
So far so mundane, and so mundane I was popping pills just to stay awake (bad habit - makes you jumpcutty), but then I saw something during some sub-BAFTAs awards ceremony for cement contractors or something like that. Who can keep them straight? What can't you get an award for these days?
At one of the tables, watching my subject presenting the awards, being all solidarity and hail-fellow-well-met, radiating concern about the future of the cement contracting or whatever the fuck industry, is Peter Sissons. Fair enough. You probably don't get invited to many decent parties if you're Peter Sissons. I certainly don't imagine he was having to choose between this and the Sissons Sex Sluts annual shindig.
I got quite fascinated by the occasional shots of Sissons; he was such a pro, you could tell what the speaker was talking about with the sound off, just from the reaction shots.
Hard times for the cement contracting industry - concerned nod-along. Light at the end of the tunnel - beatific half-smile, visible relaxation of shoulders. Contracting fees up by ten per cent this year - smile still in place, but with serious crinkle of the eyes, as if absorbing this information to use later on chicks. Little joke about some of the crazy characters in cement contracting who just happen to be here tonight - senatorial smile, shared with those seated to his left and right.
It was art, I tell you. Which is probably why, out of curiosity to see what happens when the cameras were off him, I kept watching into the rushes and the offcut. I expected a bit of tie-loosening, maybe the odd unguarded comment about Michael Buerk.
What I wasn't expecting to see was a handover from one Sissons to another. If you hadn't been studying him closely, you'd never have noticed, except they screwed up the timing ever so slightly, so Sissons the Second was visible through the door when Sissons the first opened it, ostensibly on his way to the toilets.
You see? There are two Peter Sissons. Sissonses. You know what I mean. Or at least, there were. I think there are more now. And I don't know why.
No, I didn't really do anything about it. To be honest, I was a bit busy for the year or so after that, saving the world from Chaos with the help of my glamorous lesbian aunt. To tell the truth, I'm kind of surprised you didn't ask me about that. Most people do.