Great moments in history
Back at the arse end of the 1980s when AIDS first came out, there was a huge panic both in government circles and amongst broadcasters on how to get the message across without causing a) mass panic and b) huge offence.
Just mentioning the idea of rampant bare-back bum-sex (or even rampant front-bottom sex, come to think of it) on prime-time television was a complete no-no, so the message had to be soothing, subtle, yet firm. The moral panic at the time was actually rather greater than the risks, with the Daily Mail leading the way, as usual, with such gems (if I remember rightly) as "Gay Black Immigrants to Shag us all to Death and steal our Jobs", or something.
Best get a mature, repsected celebrity in to put a nation's mind at rest. Lovely, lovely Sue Cook, then. She's done Crimewatch, Nationwide, Breakfast Time, Children in Need, and young impressionable men up and down the country would give anything to have a go on her. As it were. Nice, cosy programmes that carry out the BBC's remit to inform, educate and entertain. Best make it peak-time. Roll VT.
Sue is alone in a studio, sitting behind a desk with what appears to be a large mis-shapen lump of plastic. Soon enough it becomes apparant that it is, in fact, a lifesize lower male torso, sporting what can only be described as a generous hard-on of a size that most of us would be pretty pleased with. She talks, softly, firmly, reassuringly. Then... jaws hit the floor the length of the country.
Sweet, innocent Sue Cook rolls a rubber onto the plastic boner, as they sit eye-to-Jap's eye in a stark, lonely TV studio. She may even have repeated the trick for those who missed it the first time round, but it was far too late. My illusions were shattered. I'd never be able to watch Crimewatch again*. They let Ian Dury have a go as well, but face facts, it just wasn't the same.
The response was explosive. There was only one topic of convseration in the office the next day, and as civil servants, we immediately sent the office boy down to Superdrug and Tescos respectively for a pack of three and a cucumber to practice on. And as a result, my salad is no longer infected. Richard got straight on the phone and bought shares in London Rubber and lived handsomely for several years off the profits, while his mum panicked and scrubbed the entire house down with Domestos.
Self-appointed TV watchdog and battle-axe Mary Whitehouse was all over the press following day. Her words haunted her until the day she died, and, as far as I know, have been engraved on her headstone: "I don't want condoms thrust down my throat morning, noon and night."
In the words of the great Ron Manager: enduring image. A defining moment of my life. I am, however, just about the only person who remembers this. I didn't imagine it, did I?
* Except to check if I was in it.
Oh Lordy! It's the return of Hobbies of the Rich and Famous, where TV's Carol Smillie talks exclusively about the ancient Japanese art of Hot Bagging.