Friday, 18 January 2013

“Ask before you vent,” 1955

The NOI ran this hastily conceived poster in theatres and working men’s clubs in 1955. That year, polite and rude society alike had been outraged by the infamous case of R. v Treadles, brought after popular ventriloquist Archie Treadles was caught red-fingered leaving the dressing-room of rival act Wally Pippin at the Lincoln-on-Land Alhambra.

Treadles at first denied any unpropriety, saying he’d come backstage to congratulate Pippin on a fine turn. And when Pippin admitted under cross-examination that he hadn’t been in the room when the offence was said to have taken place, it looked as though Treadles would be acquitted.

But, in a surprising twist, Pippin’s doll, Señor Moneybags, took to the stand – the only time a ventriloquist’s dummy has been called before a court – and told a shocked Old Bailey that Treadles had “come and got me out of my gox and had a go on me”. His evidence was devastating. 

The press of the day spared the public the grislier details, saying only that Treadles was accused of performing “a variety act” on another’s doll. Treadles changed tack in the face of so damning an accusation, saying he had mistaken Señor Moneybags for a wooden glove, but his defence was in tatters, and he was found guilty and bound over for £350. After his conviction, his own puppet, Dickie Tummie, never spoke to him again.