Tag Archives: Stephen Hawking

Morgan and the Professor

MJ HawkingFor me, as with so many things, I knew Professor Stephen Hawking best for his work with Monty Python.

Professor Hawking was one of those rare scientists who, in addition to incredible scientific achievements, managed to achieve mainstream recognition against all odds. In addition to his success as a bestselling author, lots of people instantly recognize him for his appearances on “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Simpsons,” and “Star Trek.”

The night I met the Professor was, admittedly, a bit hectic. My son Morgan and I were backstage at the O2 in London for the final night of Monty Python, and there was even more activity than usual. A TV crew was setting up for a live broadcast, and friends, family, celebrities, and other hangers-on were packed into a reception room. But the crowd parted when the Professor was brought in, and we found ourselves standing next to him.

I’m always grateful that Morgan was able to talk to him and tell him about his school. I don’t know how interested the Professor was, but it sure did a great job of inspiring Morgan. And, that’s where I was able to get a photo of the two of them together.

Later that night, after the show, I had a chance to speak to him myself, and tell him a few of my Python-related stories. I don’t know what the Professor thought, but I was able to make his assistants laugh, so I’ll take that as a win. And for the Professor to live as long as he did, and contribute so much to the world—well, I’ll take that as a win for the world.

R.I.P. Stephen Hawking.

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The Last of the Last Night of Monty Python

 The scene after the show ended on the Last Night of Monty Python was–well, it was chaotic in a good way, but chaotic nevertheless.

 
My son and I made our way backstage very slowly, weaving through the crowd and making our way through the hallways. Camera crews were everywhere, blocking any convenient access, so we made our way back into the Green Room. It was packed with people I didn’t know, many of them apparently from the same group that was there for the live TV pre-show broadcasts, and a small band was setting up. They began playing very loudly in the rather small room, and I quickly realized that there was no way that John Cleese would ever, ever show up in this room. 
 
We waited a few more minutes, during which time I saw Eric Idle enter and wade through the crowd. The crowd showed no sign of letting up, so we decided to take our chances in the hallways. 
 
There were apparently several levels of backstage passes. We wore VIP passes, which were apparently second-highest only to the coveted AAA (all-access area). But it was difficult to discern what they actually meant. We would walk down one hallway and be turned away, and be welcomed when we came back two minutes later. We tried to enter what was apparently a small pub inside the larger pub in search of John Cleese, but were told it was over capacity and we would have to wait until some people left. So, we walked down to the Family Hospitality Suite, where Terry Jones was greeting everyone (and, appropriately, his family was in attendance; and I caught up with his son Bill).
TJ Bill HJ
We had drinks and visited, meeting new friends and old. The crowd didn’t seem to dissipate, so we walked down to the pub-within-a-pub to say hello to John. He had apparently left, but the Gilliam family was well-represented, and I walked past Terry to say hello to Prof. Stephen Hawking. I introduced myself to him and explained my Python connection to him and his assistants. Then, I said hello to Maggie Gilliam, who was astonished at the size of my now-19-year-old son, and I re-met their son Harry, who was just as tall as my son. As Eric Idle told me, “You’ve got to stop feeding him!”
 
I had a chance to catch up with the always delightful John Goldstone in the hallway, and he mentioned that the Pythons had all been called away for a final round of photos. It was getting late, and it was perilously close to the times for the last trains, so we reluctantly said goodnight and headed out. As we were walking around the darkened O2, heading for the exits, we heard some talking behind a partition that was now blocking the huge dead parrot from the public areas. I knew those voices, so we walked around in time to see the Pythons leaving, their final photo obligation finished. John called out to me and we all had a few minutes together before we had to leave. We missed the last trains of the Last Night of Monty Python, of course and had to pile into the buses, but it was worth it. 

 

 

Last Night of Python Part One

July 20 had a much different feel to it than the previous night.

 
We took an earlier train to the O2 than we had on Saturday, but it seemed more crowded. I noticed a familiar-looking face in our car, about half a dozen seats away, and could swear it was Steve Coogan, who I last saw a few months before on the Academy Awards telecast. Funny who you see on the Tube…
 
Most of the passengers disembarked for the O2 and made their way through a light rainfall. My son and I picked up our tickets and passes and went inside, making our way to the green room. Along the way, we passed the 50-foot-long Norwegian Blue, which already had about a dozen fans queued up for photos with it. I picked up a few souvenirs, and we walked past a waiting crowd and stepped into the green room.
 
To our surprise, the room had been transformed from a low-key lounge and bar into a shrine to Python, complete with cages filled with dead parrots, and a pair of couches and cameras and lighting equipment at the far end. There was obviously going to be some sort of broadcast (I later found out that there was a live broadcast for British TV, hosted by and featuring a few British TV personalities). Eddie Izzard came out of the hallway with the dressing rooms; we said a quick hello and he went off to be interviewed by a roaming camera crew.
 
The crowd of people who had been held outside the green room were then allowed in; they were obviously background players for the broadcast. It was getting uncomfortably crowded. And then, someone who was obviously NOT a background player was wheeled into the room, accompanied by a pair of assistants. There was no mistaking Prof. Stephen Hawking; everyone respectfully deferred to him as he came to a halt near us behind the couches. A trio of girls in low-cut dresses swarmed around the good doctor for a few minutes, and my son had the chance to speak to him as well, mentioning his high school and the Nobel-Prize-winning doctor who founded it, and I snapped a picture of the two of them.
 
MJ Hawking
 
Most of the celebrities were British, and I didn’t recognize them. But I did recognize Warwick Davis and his family, who was also a center of attention. He stood near us and introduced himself to Prof. Hawking. I complimented him on his work at the Python press conference that had started the whole reunion, and we had a nice chat. And it was time to take our seats for the final show…