Henry von Stifle: Music and Me

I’ve always been very musical and music has played a big part of my life ever since my father threw an oboe at me when I was 6 years old. Up until 2006 I had never thought of performing music but after being so cruelly overlooked as a backing singer for Martine McCutcheon’s UK tour I decided to prove her and all my doubters wrong.

I started by forming a band and placed an ad in Melody Maker looking for like-minded people. Within two weeks I had my band. I was on vocals, Nigel was on cello, Tucker was on the glockenspiel, ‘Mad’ Dave was the kazoo player and we had Sophie on another cello. After much debate I decided to call ourselves Bon Jovi but two days later I found out that another band from New Jersey in America already had that name – where are they now?! After another lengthy brain storming session we agreed on the name Dexy’s Midnight Runners but that too had already been taken. Eventually we got it right and we were known as Abandoned Sandals.

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Abandoned Sandals

 

We started rehearsing with gusto and I managed to get us a tour of the pubs and bars of Torquay (the English Riviera). At first everything was as I had imagined being in a band to be, adoring fans packing out pubs such as The Bull and Bush and Ryan’s Bar, free bottled water, sandwiches and sex! Not that I was having sex but some people who came to the gigs or just lived in Torquay were having sex and I rode the wave. But slowly musical differences and tensions within the band began to emerge. Nigel and Sophie began to argue who was lead cello player. Then ‘Mad’ Dave accidentally dropped his kazoo into a toilet. The loss of the kazoo was too much for me to take and we disbanded later that day – no more Abandoned Sandals.

But I wasn’t ready to give up on my dream of being a successful musician just yet so decided to strike out on my own. Working on my own meant playing all of the instruments myself so I gathered anything I could play and set about recording. After a few hours I noticed how brilliant it sounded! Who would’ve thought that finger cymbals, a tambourine, a maraca and some spoons would have sounded so modern and  so full of vitality!

I called the piece ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout Them Blues (Sad Face)’ and the critics hated it. But the public, well they absolutely despised it. I’d never experienced venom like it.

With my confidence shot, I was about to give up the musical dream but fate was about to take a twist like the way The Sixth Sense ends with Bruce Willis turning out to be a decent actor. ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout Them Blues (Sad Face)’ was used for an advert on Romanian TV for a herbal nipple cream and BOOM! the song was suddenly being played everywhere! Bucharest bounced to the bass line, Vaslui vibed to the tambourine and Cluj cried to the sheer beauty of the finger cymbals. The song began to climb the singles chart eventually selling over 800 copies!! I toured Romania extensively and it became hard to walk down any street without being recognised, people would see me and say ‘Nipple Cream’ – I felt so alive!

I quickly recorded a follow-up single, ‘Hey, Hey, No, Put It Down and Smash the Melon (Rub It On)’ which was also used in an advert for Romanian TV but this time for a rival herbal nipple cream company. The country again went wild for this new cut and my place in Romanian pop culture was sealed. The Romanian people took me to their hearts and in return I took them to mine and I stayed in Bucharest for 8 months and became fluent in roughly 25 Romanian words.

But like all good things in my life, it came to a grinding halt one day. The repetetive use of the finger cymblas was starting to make my fingers a bit sore and sensitive. Eventually the constant friction caused my fingers to start bleeding and become infected. I was told I had a choice to make – stop playing them or risk losing my fingers. I empolyed other musicians to play them for me but none could ever match my intensity with them and I sadly lost my ‘sound’.

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Finger Cymbals. Cymbals for fingers
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Henry von Stifle: World Record Holder

I am a great human. Like all great humans I have tried and succeeded in pushing myself to the limits of human endeavour. One of the ways I do this is by attempting and often setting new world records.

BUT WHY DO I DO IT?

I don’t do it to cover myself in glory, I don’t do it to massage my own ego and I don’t do  it to attract the attention of the opposite sex, (women already find me irresistible, more of which I’ll reveal at a later date)

I set new world records to inspire children, communities, countries and, in most cases, the entire population of the planet we call Earth. I do it to push the boundaries of humanity, to show all of us that if we dream big enough we can all be better people, YOU can be like me!

So here is a list of world records that I hold

  • Longest time spent sitting on a shoe – 12 days, 6 hours and 33 minutes
  • Longest time spent sitting on a penguin – 4 days, 2 hours and 6 minutes
  • Most packets of Scampi Fries eaten in 1 hour – 54 packets
  • Most cats thrown at a wall in 1 hour – 23 (For Children in Need)fallingcat_jpg_560x0_q80_crop-smart
  • Longest time pretending to be a Ninja in a Marks and Spencer’s Food Hall – 3 days
  • Most impersonations of Bruce Forsyth in a week – 786
  • Largest collection of Wooden Ties – 2
  •  Longest time anyone has had a snail in their underpants – 16 days
  • Most spoons thrown at aeroplanes at Heathrow Airport – 84 spoons at 67 planes
  • Longest journey on a train with a live horse – 2 hours

    I could go on but I don’t wish to sound arrogant.

 

  • Most occasions anyone has accidentally electrocuted themselves whilst trying to make toast – 43
  • Most Llamas insulted in Spanish – 88 (and counting)
  • Longest time spent standing on a roundabout – 2 days, 2 hours and 2 minutes

So there you go. Now, don’t feel intimidated by all of my success, use them to spur you on to greater things.

My Time as a Spy

Before I became a world-class entertainer I worked, for a short while, as a spy for the British Secret Service. I will share some of my experiences as a spy later in this blog but what I want to share with you today is an extract from a one man show I did a few years back which was based on my time working undercover. A few years ago, (I can’t say exactly due to the official secrets act), I was sent deep undercover into North Korea on a reconnaissance mission. I discovered many things during my five-day mission but one that stuck in my mind was the North Koreans lack of Orangina (See picture below if you are not sure of the drink I am mentioning).

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The following conversation is from my hit solo show and is based on real events. The conversation took place between myself and the head of MI5 one day after I landed in North Korea, so strap in!

Henry: Hello

MI5: Hello

Henry: What?

MI5: HELLO!

Henry: Speak up, I’ve got a bad signal.

MI5: HELLO!

Henry: Hello.

MI5: Are you in North Korea, Henry?

Henry: Yes.

MI5: How’s the food over there?

Henry: I don’t know, I’ve not eaten yet.

MI5: Are you eating ok?

Henry: Pardon?

MI5: I said, are you eating ok?

Henry: Yes.

MI5: What did you have for lunch?

Henry: I ate on the plane.

MI5: What was it?

Henry: It’s a big aerodynamic machine that flies people to different destinations.

MI5: No, I know what a plane is, I was asking what you had for lunch.

Henry: Salmon.

MI5: Oh.

Henry: Look, they don’t have any Orangina here.

MI5: How was it?

Henry: What?

MI5: How was the salmon?

Henry: It was fine. Look, they don’t have any Orangina here.

MI5: Did they give you some lemon for it?

Henry: Instead of Orangina?

MI5: No, for the salmon.

Henry: No. Look, they do not have any Orangina in North Korea.

MI5: Pardon?

Henry: I said, they don’t have any Orangina here.

MI5: Yes, I know.

Henry: Oh

MI5: Oh.

Henry: But don’t they know that since Orangina’s inception in 1936 it’s had the perfect blend of citrus fruits and orange zest. And that at only 42 calories per can it’s great for your waist?

MI5: No, not many North Koreans know about that. Anyway, I’d better go now as I have a moussaka in the oven

Henry: Is that a code?

MI5: What?

Henry: Moussaka in the oven. Is that a code for something?

MI5: No, I’ve really got a moussaka in the oven.

Henry: I love moussaka but I hate aubergines.

MI5: But aubergines are the main ingredient in moussaka, so how can you like it?

Henry: What?

MI5: I said, aubergines are the main ingredient in moussaka, so how can you like it?

Henry:…Ok

MI5: Pardon?

Henry: Ok…bye.

MI5: Be careful, Henry.

Henry: Ok

(They both laugh)

So that’s the scene and it’s pretty tense stuff I’m sure you’ll agree. I will share more of my spy exploits and the hit show about that time at a later date.

 

 

MY CHILDHOOD Part 2

It was a warm, sunny day in June, 1982. I was eight years old and my life was in a mess. My imaginary girlfriend, Beverly D’Angelo had left me for another man, apparently I wasn’t ‘fun anymore’. I was devastated and the trauma of that period has left a scar in me that is still sore to this day, in fact  I can pinpoint the break-up from Bev as the point in which I lost all trust in relationships, real and imaginary ones. Looking back, I don’t really blame her, the imaginary video rental store that we were managing together was running up debts and I was under a lot of stress due to many things, one of which was my fathers increasingly erratic behaviour. Since accidentally murdering my mother he had changed a lot. His drinking was out of control and as for his work, his inventions were becoming more and more deranged. In the six months of 1982 he had invented, among other things, the TieStraw which was an ordinary suit tie but with a rigid plastic lining which could be put into a glass and used for drinking, the paper sleeping bag, a coal powered bicycle, LSD Slippers (slippers made out of the hallucinogenic and designed to enter your blood stream via the pores in your feet), and the Solar Powered Cigarette Lighter.

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We would occasionally set some time aside to have frank discussions about my interest in world history and in his interest of wanting to transform into a salmon and swim the great rivers of the world. His determination to mutate into a salmon was to ultimately prove to be his downfall. In his efforts to speed along the transformation he took to lying under water in the bath which tragically led to him drowning himself.

So there I was, an eight year old whose father had accidentally drowned himself, a mother who had been accidentally murdered and an imaginary girlfriend who had left due to my inability to run a small imaginary video rental shop. I was alone in the world…or so I thought. Unbeknownst to me, I had an uncle on my father’s side and due to me having no other legal guardian he agreed to look after me for a small fee.

Three days later I had moved in with my uncle at his home in Oxford the centre of learning, the perfect place for a young genius such as myself to broaden his knowledge. My uncle was a cold and distant man (I don’t mean his body temperature or that he was always far away, I’m talking about his personality) and the reason I just keep calling him ‘Uncle’ was and still is because he never told me his name. He thought it would be a sign of weakness for us to know each others names so ‘uncle’ it was. But I instantly fell in love with Oxford and I spent all of my time roaming its ancient streets and libraries. It was during this period that I really became interested in world history and found myself devouring history books on a daily basis. The two books that had the biggest impact on me in 1982 were Jane Fonda’s ‘Workout Book’ and a book about the Romans which were a sort of large, perverted group of Italians.

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The Jane Fonda book really helped me to learn a lot more about myself and the book about the Romans cemented my determination to become a historian. I should say at this point that a lot of you will be thinking ‘but Henry, you are a world-class entertainer with a series of hit shows, the most recent of which was a musical version of ‘Enter The Dragon’; with you in the role of Bruce Lee, (see picture below) what’s all this history stuff and wanting to be a historian?’ Well, even though I am a genius on the stage, I have only been performing for five years. Before which I was a highly acclaimed history author with (self-published) books such as ‘The History of Walls’ (which I also adapted into a musical but more of that later), ‘The History of Huey Lewis and the News’ and ‘The History of The Dramatic Pause’. But again I jump ahead in this, my life story. Despite my huge intellect I had never stepped foot inside a school and so on the 6th September 1982 I attended my first day in school and I think it’s safe to say without sounding arrogant that the English school system had never seen the likes of me before and the whole English schooling system would never be the same again…

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Promotional poster for my musical version of Enter The Dragon.