Kevin Thomas: A Few Of My Favourite Things
Merman director and industry legend Kevin Thomas gives us an entertaining and surprisingly sweet dialogue with himself in this inimitable rundown of his creative knick-knacks.
So here I am. Sat with my feet upon my desk, asking myself what are the beautiful things around me that I value most.
Well for starters, there’s the desk itself.
Designed and built by George Nakashima, a pioneer of mid century furniture design and master of Japanese joinery techniques, this bespoke ‘live edge’ cherry wood table, is a celebration of the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi: Embracing nature, each crack, each knot, each burl, each wonderful imperfection collectively reveals the very soul of the tree…
..George Nakashima, respected the intricacies of wood; each line of grain, a journey which brings about a sense of serenity and spiritual longing, for Nakashima believed there were ghosts in trees and that the…
Whoa! Whoa! Stop, stop it, stop now.
Why? Because you’re doing it again.
Doing what again?
Being pretentious. Being up yourself.
I was just…
Your name is Kevin for fucks sake, surpassed only by Trevor and Paul in the list of names reserved for commoners such as yourself.
Keep it real!
Know your audience.
Ok, shall I choose something more relatable, like football?
Ok, so one of my earliest memories is of my Grandad taking me to White Hart Lane. He’d stand on the terraces and I’d sit high up on the big mans shoulders holding on for dear life. I remember him screaming his lungs out, his cold raspy breath would rise so I’d be watching the beautiful game through his mist, as I too would scream my tiny toddler lungs out.
Football has always been a huge part of my life. Apart from I suppose between the ages of 16 and 18 when hairdressing took over and…
Stay on track.
.. Wot, sorry, yes… so when I was 8 or 9, me and my mates used to have Subbuteo tournaments. We rolled out the green felt football pitch every Sunday afternoon and whoever won got to keep the Subbuteo World Cup for an entire week and host the next tournament at home on their bedroom floor the following Sunday, when we’d do it all over again.
The last time we ever played one of our tournaments, I won, so I suppose I got to keep it forever.
I was so proud. It is easily the best thing I ever won.
Wait, I see what you are doing here.
“Easily the best thing I ever won” my arse; is that an EMMY behind it?
Oh my Goodness, who put that… ignore it - background detail, not important…
You’re a director, you know the importance of composition, you consciously framed it that way to tell the readers you won an EMMY didn’t you.
No, I just…
Kevin, how many times do I have to tell you, it’s that kind of false modesty that will turn people against you?
You’re writing this piece why exactly?
Because all PR is good PR?
Yes, and why else?
I’m thinking, I’m thinking.
Is it to make people like you?
Is it to make people think you’re interesting?
Is it because you wish to be viewed as a man of the people?
Yes, I’d like that very much.
So remember what I told you, stop bigging yourself up, stop singing your own praises, and stop..
..Blowing my own trumpet.
Exactly. Three things you should never ever do.
Aren’t they all the same thing?
Ok, Erm! so, another precious and beautiful object I own is a lock of red hair which once sprouted from the head of my all-time hero David Bowie.
On September 8th 1974, right before Bowie was about to go on stage at Universal City Studios in LA, as part of his Diamond Dogs tour, Jac Colello, who was Bowies friend and hairdresser, dyed and trimmed Bowies hair, kept a clipping, and later presented it as a gift to his friend, Neal Peters, who had just months earlier started the David Bowie fan club in the US.
Peters kept the lock of hair in the original box for over 40 years, then just a couple of years before Bowie died, he put it into a music memorabilia auction and I bid for it, and ending up forking out a massive…
Was I blowing my own trumpet again?
I wasn’t being a clown was I?
It’s vulgar to talk about money.
Do you want people thinking you’ve got more money than sense?
No, I think ‘sense’ should come first.
How do you know it’s David Bowie's hair?
Coz of its colour and…
How do you know it's not Mick Hucknells hair?
Coz I wouldn’t fucking pay that for Mick Fucknells hair.
Shall I move on to the next of my favourite things?
That’s what we are here for.
So, a few years ago, when emotionally I wasn’t going through the best of times, a friend of mine in LA kindly gave me the keys to his little bungalow in Joshua Tree. I told myself I was going to be very disciplined, get up early and write, then as the day gets cooler, go hiking in the mountains.
One afternoon, just as I parked up near a trail, I met this woman as she too was getting out of her car. She was completely topless and had very recently had a double mastectomy. She starting chatting to me very matter-of-factly as she slapped Factor 30 onto her scarred torso.
Anyway, still topless with her shirt tied around her waist, we set off on the trail at the same time. She told me her husband had left her after the operation. There was so much optimism and positive energy radiating from this woman. It was very moving, but not in a way where I felt sorry for her. More in a way where I somehow felt I should never feel sorry for myself. That’s what she made me feel.
We reached a junction, swapped numbers and she headed off back and I continued alone. Then I did something stupid…
Stay on track.
Well, that’s sort of the point, I didn’t stay on the track, I ventured off the trail and got lost. The sun was dipping quickly. It was disorientating as there were no landmarks in any direction. There wasn’t a soul around. My phone battery was dying. Your mind wanders: Mountain lions, rattlesnakes, scorpions. Then, just as panic was starting to set in I found a domino, lying in the sand.
It was so random. Just miles of stunning nature in every direction, and this single domino with 8 dots. How did it get there? It wasn’t even on a path.
I can’t explain why, but somehow, a combination of meeting this incredibly inspiring woman, then finding this domino, gave me some encouragement and made me decisive in choosing which direction to go in.
It’s only afterwards that I’ve read about the significance of numbers and how the ‘Angel Number 8’ symbolises inner strength and guides one to trust in ones intuition.
Then what happened?
I found the trail, walked to the car and drove home.
What, that’s it?
You didn’t get chased by a lion?
You saw a lion though right?
‘Not really?’ How is that an answer?
Well I don’t know what a lion smells like. It might have been myself I could smell. I was pretty nervous.
Kevin, you’re a director: A storyteller. That story had the drama, the suspense, the build up but lacked conviction in the final act. Wot the fuck!
No-ones gonna give you a job if you fall at the final hurdle.
But that’s what…
Got anything else football related?
I wasn’t gonna pick this, but I have the autograph of arguably the greatest footballer the world has seen: Pele. And he’s signed it personally to me.
Looks like it says ‘To Keven’.
Well, yeah but…
Can’t he spell ‘Kevin’?
To be fair, I might have mumbled my name a bit, when he asked.
Who can’t spell ‘Kevin’?
Well, Pele I suppose.
Pretty unlucky getting to meet a legend and he can’t spell your name.
’Tis a bit yeah.
Which is ironic coz he wishes you ‘good luck’.
Maybe he meant ‘good luck’ in general, not just at that point in time.
Well, he sure can’t spell. Proof is in the pudding.
Bit shit that.
’Tis a bit yeah.
Not worth the paper it’s written on.
Ok! Well, let’s scrap that one then. But here’s a really good one.
My next object, something that is so special and means so much to me because it really doesn’t come more beautiful than this, is a beaver on top of another beaver.
Whoa! Whoa! Easy, are you being coarse?
You’re being crass aren’t you?
No, that’s what it is.
Being vulgar does not equate to being a man of the people.
I’m not being vulgar: It’s a baby beaver lying on top of its parents torso. Intricately carved in fine detail from a single bone and detailed with tiny stones for the eyes, its date and origin are unknown, but it is of huge sentimental value to me because it was a precious gift from my youngest son Ned.
He bought it in an antique shop in Lewes coz it made him think of when he was himself a newborn baby and would lie on his back on my chest and fall asleep, and I too would fall asleep to the rhythm of his breathing and the tiny sounds he made, often remaining in that position throughout the night.
People will like you for that.
That’s what you want isn’t it?
It’s all I want…
Great, we’re back on track, so what else you got?
Well let me think, like I said, I’m still sat here with my feet upon my pretentious desk, pondering the question, what are the beautiful things that surround me. And my gaze is drawn to my own feet and…
Wot, you got a foot fetish now?
With your ‘own’ feet?
Not at all.
The Foot (And Desk, Again)
It's just my right foot I’m looking at because I have a tattoo on top of it. It says ‘4721 miles’, and every time I see it, it reminds me of one of the most joyous things I’ve ever done in my entire life, which was a driving trip from LA to New York with my son.
The beaver kid?
No my other son, Thomas. We saw so many great things, visited so many great places and sometimes drove through the night with no other cars for miles, music blaring, as the the sun came up over the desert horizon.
One night we were staying in a twin bed log cabin in Woodfin, North Carolina. It was so cold we huddled together in one single bed under two covers and slept in our North Face coats. That was the night we decided that when we get to NY we’d get matching tattoos of the milage. Thomas got it on his arm but I got it on my right foot coz that was the foot on the accelerator and I did all the driving coz Thomas couldn’t drive back then.
As soon as we dropped off the hire car we went straight to get the tattoos to commemorate our shared experience.
Sometimes, it’s our memories, not objects, that are the most beautiful things we own.
Ok, that’s a good one. Sorry, I didn’t know where you were going with the ‘foot’ thing.
Just looking out for you. Didn’t want to go into print with anything unsavoury.
I know and I appreciate that.
You know I care about you, right?
Yes, and I care about you too.
You and me, we are the same, you know that right?
Yes I do…
So, looks like you can pick one more thing, what is it?
Well my final ‘thing’ is something that can’t be photographed.
I don’t follow.
Well, its not a tangible thing as such. Its something that’s just out there, all around me, all the time.
If you’re gonna get all pretentious again…
.. It's you!
Yes you: The Voice of Reason. The Voice of Experience. The Voice of Better Judgement. Coz without you, well, I don’t know how I would come across to the millions who are reading this.
Well, you’d most probably come across as a pretentious, arrogant, vulgar, degenerate, coarse, crass clown who blows his own trumpet and can’t finish off a good story for shit.
And I really don’t want to be like other directors.
You want to be a man of the people, am I right?
So very, very much.
Remember, your name is Kevin, surpassed only by Trevor and Paul in the list of names reserved for commoners.
And Paul is my middle name.
It’s a good honest name. Humble. Simple. Even Pele shouldn’t have any trouble with that one.
Thank you, Voice of Reason.
Just doing my job.