Archive for November, 2015

My Journals in The 7th Python

I quote extensively from my journals in The 7th Python. I started a journal in 2001 after writing The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius. Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations were basically his journal entries, and Professor Pierre Hadot had written in Philosophy As A Way of Life about how the ancients used journals to support their philosophy. Jules Evans in Philosophy For Life explains that daily journals were called hupomnemata in ancient Greece, and that keeping one brought a kind of Socratic dialogue into your intimate daily life. So inspired by Marcus I started to write about the events that happened to me and what I felt about them. I also considered my health, my meditation practice, and other items of personal interest.

When the dispute with the Pythons began, I started to write about those events, and kept going until the resolution of the case in 2013. In the book I decided to use quotes from the journals to show how the legal events were impinging on my inner life. I documented the stress I was undergoing, the financial struggles caused by the dispute, and my changing feelings towards the Pythons. I was also able to track my relation to the Pythons, which is a history of 40 years, from 1973-2013. In the journals I was able to acknowledge how we related to each other during the making of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1973-75, and what it was like during the dispute from 2005-2013. I was able, through the keeping of the journal, to recognise and alter my view of myself in relation to our break-up, which was traumatic for me at the time, and which was a constant psychological scar for many years. This ability, to look at the past through the prism of the present, was really helpful to me. I managed to lose a sense of blame and guilt that I had dragged with me for many years. It was in a sense an act of liberation, brought about by having to confront nakedly the painful events of the past through a new perspective of the present.
Here is an early journal entry:

October 29 2005

Today I read an article about I Ching and Synchronicity, which talked about how synchronicity was a resonance between the physical world – external events and happenings – and the psychic world-internal events and especially the meaning that one takes from the things that happen to you or appear to you.

This got me thinking about my Python problem, an external event dealing with money owed me, and which is providing me with some meaning – ie a lesson or advice about how to deal with life now and in the future. Jung’s archetypes and the I Ching hexagrams both provide symbolic images and ideas that reflect on the inner-outer resonance that is occurring between the mind and the world and provides a depth of spiritual meaning for interpreting the situation that exists. Tonight I will consult the I Ching about this situation and see what it says, but perhaps I need to reflect on the meaning of this problem and why it has happened now. What does it mean for me and what lesson does it hold?

It involves money, and would provide security of income for at least 5 years which will give me confidence to pursue my activities- either film or otherwise. It represents a pot of gold – worldly wealth that can provide benefits- security, confidence, reduction of debt etc. If I do not get this money, then what – am I insecure, lacking confidence? Or will I manage to get along, to keep going, find a way. Is my internal self or essence able to carry on as per normal (natural being) even if this money does not get paid to me. What is more important- your money or your life? When I consider the physical and mental state of my being, the quality of my relationships with others, and my relationship with the external environment, then surely this money is not really the important thing. Your life is good and solid, and means so much more than this cash.

Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is about values. What is more valuable and what is it important to maintain or to seek? Is it money or is it something else, something more valuable than money, something which has no cash value. If this problem makes you understand about what is truly valuable in your life, and to really appreciate these things in your life, and to give the value and importance far above the cash that you are owed, then you really would learn a valuable lesson, one that too is priceless.

Money has long been a kind of God for you, even a kind of nemesis, because money was very important to your mother and was the ultimate value system when you grew up. Dealing with money, having the right attitude to it has taken you years of inward therapy and it’s no surprise that it is a hefty money problem that you are forced to now face and to deal with in ways that leave you unhurt, still balanced and stable, not angry, not bitter, not full of regrets.

You have to learn the right perspective, how to live without getting what you are owed and not letting it damage your mind and heart. This is the lesson you must learn now and keep for all time.

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November 26, 2015 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

Michael Palin and the Pythons Defer to Their Lawyers

In my post on Why I Wrote The 7th Python (Part 2) I commented: “But I could also see a disturbing pattern in the behaviour of the Pythons during this 7 year struggle. During this entire period, not one Python rang or emailed me wanting to discuss the problem. I was forced to deal only with their lawyers and managers. And when I did reach out to Michael Palin and Terry Jones by letter, it didn’t make any difference.” A friend of mine said that she was surprised that I expected to hear from them. She thought I was being naive and said that I should have realised that once there was a dispute and lawyers got involved, their advice to the Pythons would be – ‘Don’t communicate with him, leave it to us.’ This is probably the case, since this relieved the Pythons of any need for dealing with me or the dispute. This removed their responsibility to do anything about the problem – after all, they could just leave it to their lawyers.

Of course I wasn’t happy with this situation, since I had no way of knowing what their manager and lawyer were saying to them. Were they being informed about the case? So I decided to write to Michael Palin to make certain that he at least understood my position. I had hoped that he would be an honest broker and try to see why I was so certain that my position was correct (as it had been for 30 years). But Michael only passed my letter to their manager or merely asked him what was happening, only to be told that their lawyer was looking into the claim. Eventually Michael wrote to me that their lawyer had decided that my claim was not valid. I was disturbed by this. How could their lawyer make a unilateral decision like this, after I had been collecting these royalties since 1976. I felt let down, but decided that I had to continue to assert my rights.

I wrote again to Michael asking him to consult Anne Henshaw who had been their manager when I did my deal on Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1974. I specifically said that she knew what the original deal had been, and I requested that he ask her frankly to confirm the true situation. I didn’t hear back from him but assumed that he at least would make the effort to ask her. I knew that she was still involved with Michael on his broadcasting ventures and she had been his manager for a number of years after she ceased being the Pythons’ manager. I was very surprised to discover (at the trial) that he never bothered to ask her. This was his testimony in court:

Tom Weisselberg (my barrister): Did you discuss your evidence with Mrs. Henshaw?
Palin: No.
Weisselberg: You have never discussed the issues relating to this case with Mrs. Henshaw?
Palin: No.
Weisselberg: Why not, Mr. Palin?
Palin: There was no reason to.
Weisselberg: So even though Mr. Forstater says that there was an agreement between you and other of the Pythons in relation to his share of the top half, that Anne Henshaw was at a meeting with you, you have never discussed his claim with Mrs. Henshaw at all?
Palin: I cannot remember that meeting, if that meeting ever took place, whether we discussed it.
Weisselberg: My question was you have never discussed it with Mrs. Henshaw at all?
Palin: Not to my recollection.

Later Weisselberg returned to Anne Henshaw’s role:

Weisselberg: You are still a director of two companies with Mrs. Henshaw. When did you last see her?
Palin: I should think probably a year ago.
Weisselberg: You said that you have not talked about Mr. Forstater’s claim to her at all. Is that right?
Palin: I have avoided talking to her about it because I felt it was a Python matter and not something I personally wanted to get into.
Weisselberg: So you did not ask her to give evidence in these proceedings?
Palin: I might have asked her if she had any views on what was going on. That was all. That may have been a long time ago, but I always insisted that if she had anything she wanted to say she should go through the normal process and talk to our solicitor. I recollect that only came up once.

In the end, Anne Henshaw (now Anne James) did not appear as a witness for the Pythons. This is what Justice Norris had to say about it:

“I turn to consider what (if anything) should be made of the absence of Anne Henshaw at the trial of the action. She herself fell out with the Pythons as a group in an acrimonious split in 1997. But she remained a friend of Michael Palin and of Terry Jones, and a Director of two of Mr Palin’s companies. No real account was given as to why PMP did not call her to give evidence, given her continued friendship with Michael Palin and Terry Jones.

That she may have relevant evidence to give was apparent from the original pleaded case, but a challenge to call her had been squarely put in correspondence by Mr Forstater himself, and I must examine the consequences of PMP choosing to duck that challenge.”

One point that he then made was that “The failure to call her also means that there is no evidence-based challenge to Mr Forstater’s assertion that he was told by Anne Henshaw that his request for a one seventh share of the Top Half had been approved by the Pythons; and that also strengthens his case.”

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November 25, 2015 at 8:21 am Leave a comment

(Eric) Idle Musings

Eric Idle hates me. The reason is not difficult to find. I sued him and the other Pythons for trying to reduce my royalties from Spamalot and the Judge decided in my favour. After the trial he called me a loser, an idiot and a twat. This is very odd, since I should really hate him for having forced me to spend over 7 years pursuing this stupid case, which caused me many serious problems- poor health, financial woes, great stress. Yet he hates me. Here is what he said during his cross-examination:

Tom Weisselberg (my barrister): Do you think that your position in these proceedings –
Eric Idle: Yes.

Weisselberg: — is being inspired by, I will put it bluntly, a dislike of Mr. Forstater?
Idle: I am hopeful that I am trying to be as honest as far as I possibly can be and that my dislike, as you put it, of Mr. Forstater does not influence my honesty in reporting to you the answers to your questions.

Weisselberg: Do you have a particular animus against Mr. Forstater, Mr. Idle?
Idle: Only recently.

Weisselberg; Is that because of the fact of these proceedings?
Eric Idle: It’s ingratitude.

Idle seems to have ingratitude always on his mind.

But he didn’t just call me ungrateful, he also said of his fellow Pythons, “I’m making them money, and the ungrateful bastards never thank me. Who gave them a million dollars each for ‘Spamalot’?” So ingratitude must mean, for Eric, that people who have helped him become a multi-millionaire have failed in their duty to constantly thank him for allowing them to do so.

Idle says I am ungrateful because I did so well out of Producing Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so I shouldn’t complain if the Pythons decide to try chisel me out of Spamalot royalties. My taking them to court was a form of ingratitude. Funny, I thought I was just standing up for myself.

Weisselberg: Mr. Idle, it is right, is it not, that since Spamalot has made so much money there has been a fair amount of publicity as to which Python thinks that they have had the better of the financial deal?
Idle: We have squabbled since we first met. We are brothers, we are children, and we are comedians. But we love each other and we get on very well. The press does like to exaggerate these things and I have emails from John Cleese only yesterday.

Weisselberg: You have complained that some of the other Pythons have been ungrateful as to the amount of money that you have managed to generate for them.
Idle: I may at some times and — I have been promoting this thing since 2004, so I have answered a tremendous amount of questions and there is a selection of responses that have been selected.

Weisselberg If you look at Bundle D3, p.1047 one sees in the paragraph on the subject of money: “He is candidly regretful about his decision to hire a lawyer to represent the Pythons’ interest in Spamalot. Over a recent lunch with Observer writer Simon Garfield, he pointed out” – that is you – “that with a third share the others are being paid over the odds without doing very much”. Is that something that you said to the Observer writer, Mr. Idle?

Idle: It reflects possibly a bitterness I was feeling at the time. Insofar as I gave them Marcia Brooks, my lawyer, because I was concerned about conflict of interest, and she negotiated against me the highest percentage that has ever been received in Broadway history. Normally they would have been entitled to X% and John du Prez and I had to settle that they would take Y%.

Weisselberg: I think the terms of the deal are confidential. Certainly I have understood that they are.
Idle: Then forgive me, I just breached confidentiality inadvertently.

No matter how wealthy he becomes, it never seems to give Idle any contentment. He once called one of his tours The Greedy Bastard Tour and one wonders in this instance where is the border between comedy and truth?

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November 18, 2015 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

Why I Wrote the 7th Python – Part 2

Reading my journals from 2005-2013 also reminded me of the impact that these 7 years had on my health, my finances, and on my relationships. Going to court is never a cheap option, and the fact that I had to pursue this claim for so long meant that my finances not only were stretched, but finally gave out. These financial worries in turn affected my health, and I had some stress related symptoms that were difficult to control. My stomach kind of rebelled, and my blood pressure and cholesterol levels both increased. I really didn’t need this kind of change in my health at this late stage of life. I’m sure the Pythons never thought about what I had to endure. I am a follower of the Tao, and I have been meditating for about 20 years, so when this struggle was at its worst, I had some tools of self-cultivation to use in order to stay sane and balanced under duress. The journals capture these times.

The legal battle was a bit lop-sided. After all, there were 5 of them (plus Graham’s estate) against me, and their money, fame and influence far outweighed my limited resources. I was suing them for £ 300,000, which is a significant amount of money, but given there were six of them this worked out to only £ 50k each. Given that the money I was owed was revenue from Spamalot, it was not even coming out of their pockets, but was derived from the box office. In this sense, the amount of money (for them) was insignificant. Why did they persist in pursuing it? I still don’t know.

But I knew that I had to pursue this case, partly for financial reasons, and partly for personal ones. I believe in standing up for myself, and not letting others cheat me. This was a wrong done to me, and I just couldn’t let it go. This attitude was instilled into me by my mother. For this reason I have dedicated the book to her for the lessons she taught me.

I thought my saga could be of interest to other people so I decided to write it up. Interestingly, I found that all of the puzzling unanswered questions that had disturbed me at the beginning of the dispute remained to the end. I wanted to share these questions with other people, since I think they offer revealing insights into contemporary celebrity. But I could also see a disturbing pattern in the behaviour of the Pythons during this 7 year struggle. During this entire period, not one Python rang or emailed me wanting to discuss the problem. I was forced to deal only with their lawyers and managers. And when I did reach out to Michael Palin and Terry Jones by letter, it didn’t make any difference.

The only way I could manage to get this kind of overview of the 7 year long ‘little life’ was by working my way through the legal events from start to finish, while charting my own reactions to them. This is what the book does. Along the way it reveals a lot about the Law, about celebrity culture, about Taoism, and about my character and that of the Pythons. As I thought about this legal/personal story, I realised that I would need to fill in quite a few areas that form the context of my time with the Pythons. One was the making of the film in 1973-5 and another was how I got to be the producer of the film. Lastly I realised that some people who bought the book might not know about the Pythons’ history, so I had to tell their own stories as well as the state of British comedy on film and TV in the early 70s. So the book is a mixture of many elements, which I think hold together and illuminate a specific area of contemporary culture.

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November 16, 2015 at 10:48 am Leave a comment

Why I Wrote the 7th Python – Part 1

In 2012-13 I was in court with the Monty Python group over my share of royalties from Spamalot and other spin-off income from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I had this share of royalties because I Produced the film. After the trial ended I felt unable to write about the 7 frustrating years of this legal battle. But after about a year, my friend David Cohen suggested I should try to recount it. By this time I felt sufficiently distanced from the events to take that look back.

7 years is a very long time, and it represents what is termed a ‘little life’. For example the Chinese believe in 7 year cycles of life. so that the ages 7,14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63, 70, 77, and so on represent important stages in life, in which significant physical and emotional changes take place. So I wondered what these 7 years had done to me. I wanted to review how I dealt with this emotional rollercoaster.

Luckily, since 2001 I have been keeping a journal, and I had reflected during 2005-2013 about the stressful situation I found myself in. I was curious to read through those journals to see what I had been thinking, and to examine how I coped with that stress. I have quoted extensively from my journals in the book.

I also had the lawyers’ correspondence and the transcripts of the trial, so I could review the whole transit of the case from beginning to end. I could trace it from the first email to the final Judgement, and everything in between. I wonder how many real lawsuits (as against fictional ones) have had this kind of scrutiny. It was a bit like performing an autopsy, a forensic examination of all the elements that went into the case: the dispute with the Pythons’ managers, the lawyers brought in to argue it, my appeals for help to Michael Palin, a failed mediation, my unexpected meeting with Palin in a Soho street, the Pythons’ witness statements and their appearance in court (something which I never believed would happen), the witnesses, the barristers, the Judge and then the press. The transcripts are particularly revealing. 

When I read through the journals, I realised that the 7 years had at least done me one good thing. I could see that in preparing for the case I had to review in detail the events surrounding the 1974 production of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I split from the Pythons in 1975, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say they split with me. This split was not on the surface acrimonious, and in fact the split was not communicated to me officially for a couple of years. I had to work it out for myself. But the fact that I was no longer involved with them left me feeling betrayed, since the film was a huge success and went on to become the most successful independently produced film ever made in the UK. It has made around £ 30m in profit and the Pythons have each received about £ 2m from the film. It was my work which helped to create this wealth, and this feeling of betrayal stayed with me for many years, gradually losing its power. I was forced to look again at this break-up, and I could see, from a new perspective, how the events actually played out. This allowed me to re-evaluate what I thought was a failing on my part, but which I could now see was really a mutual kind of naiveté. I was pleased that I now understood what had really happened and could stop blaming myself.

This freeing myself of blame, of thinking that the break-up was my fault, is very liberating, since I was dogged with that feeling (albeit much diminished over time) for all these years. I now feel a kind of re-birth, that these events have freed me from some kind of barrier or obstacle in myself, and I now have the opportunity to continue to create books or films with a new energy and a new creative freedom. This book is therefore the first flourishing of this new freedom. Having discovered what had actually happened, I felt the need to communicate these ideas, and to use the book as a recognition of the catharsis that I had achieved.

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November 13, 2015 at 10:21 am Leave a comment

A Twat’s Tale

The 7th Python is sub-titled A Twat’s Tale. The reason is because sore loser Eric Idle, when interviewed by Ben Williams of Time Out about the reason behind the 02 reunion said, ‘We were meeting last August in gloomy circumstances because we had just been sued by this twat.’ Later on the gracious Idle told Alan Yentob on Imagine (BBC1), “We’ve been involved with this idiot who was one of the producers on Holy Grail and he has spent seven years suing us. So what it meant was it cost us a million quid to defend ourselves.” On The Meaning of Live, he also said, “Seven years he’s been pursuing us, seven years; it’s cost us a million quid, with lawyers, just to turn up and say no, that’s not true, to defend yourself.” Eric also called me a loser which is odd since Eric fails to mention that they lost the case and the 7 years defending themselves could have been reduced to no time or cost at all if they had just looked at the evidence and agreed to negotiate. But they didn’t. There were 4 distinct points where a settlement could have been achieved but in each case they (for some reason) decided not to settle. This led John Cleese to say, “And we were kind of laughing about it, you know, nobody was in despair, it’s insane- Why didn’t we settle 5 or 6 years ago?”

Why didn’t they settle 5 or 6 years ago? They had every opportunity. I never wanted to go to court, and I never thought they would want to put themselves on trial. But they did. It’s one of the mysteries of this case, one of the unanswered questions I still have about what was really going on with them. However the book does sweep the curtain aside and show the real Oz.

November 11, 2015 at 10:48 am Leave a comment

The 107th Python

7th Python title 2

Who is the 7th Python? Certainly not me. Neil Innes or Carol Cleveland are the only two deserving of the name. Of course given how brutally Eric Idle treated Neil Innes over the Rutles’ aborted relaunch, being a 7th Python seems to be a poisoned chalice (or Grail). In his Witness Statement during the trial John Cleese wrote, “Mark Forstater wasn’t even the 107th Python. He has a better chance of being the 4th Kennedy brother.”

I thought of calling the book The 1/7th Python since the court case was about my 1/7th share of Spin-off income, mainly Spamalot, but in the end I decided to stick with the 7th Python since that is one of the arguments my lawyers used in court. Neil Innes says this title will annoy Eric Idle no end. He adds that the book performs a public service.

November 10, 2015 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

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