Yesterday I, along with a packed Kensal Green Crematorium, celebrated the life of Keith Naylor.
I’d known that fat bastard for 20+ years, first he served me beers, then I worked for him and we remained firm friends for all the intervening years and I have honestly never known someone who embraced life with more verve… or swear words.
My favourite memory of Keith was many years ago at the gay Olympics held at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
Keith invited me by saying ‘Oi, Mel, I need a dress and you’re the only bird I know big enough to have one that’ll fit me’ which rather than getting him slapped, instead got him affectionately called a prick, through gales of laughter.
That was Keith all over, he had a sublime talent for being inoffensively offensive.
Anyway, I rocked up to the Vauxhall tavern and spent a disturbing half hour getting him dressed and made-up (my god was he an ugly woman) and we went outside to be greeted by the most hilarious camp Mardi Gras meets school sports day atmosphere you’ve ever seen.
The day’s proceedings were overseen by the truly hilarious drag queen Adrella, who immediately set about trying to make Keith as uncomfortable as possible – a feat those of you who knew him will know is nigh-on impossible! (Especially bearing in mind he was in drag and OWNING IT!)
So, after winning the handbag toss and losing the tug of war to the lesbian team (even with all 16 stone of Keith as anchor) Adrella had almost given up picking on him, despite having the power of the roving mic.
However, just as she’d almost abandoned hope, she successfully eavesdropped on Keith saying to me that he was terrified of heights (he never was a man who grasped sotto voce).
Again, those of you who knew Keith knew he was frightened of very little in this life, so to find a weakness like that was just too much for Adrella to turn down.
So, before he knew it, heels dress and all, Keith was being bundled into the wicker basket of a tethered hot air balloon.
During the entire ascent all you could hear over the rather sizeable and loud PA was Adrella winding Keith up for all she was worth, and Keith being incapable if saying anything other than ‘Fuck off, I don’t like this, fucking get me down!’.
After 10 minutes in the air Keith was still not fully relaxed but was beginning to control his Tourette’s-like outbursts and was even saying things like: ‘oooh, I can see into the Oval from here, Surrey are 128 for four’ but all Adrella had done was lull him into a false sense of security.
Just as he was distracted by the fact he could see tiny white specks on a green pitch, Adrella chose that moment to jump up and down.
Well… cue Keith screaming like he’d twisted his ankle in the heels – and me and all Keith’s mates on the ground crying with laughter.
The balloon operator took pity and started to bring them down whilst Keith harangued Adrella with a stream of almost incomprehensible profanities and, as the basket kissed the deck, we all found out what it was like to see a hairy arse and legs upside down as he attempted and failed to forward-roll out of the basket, getting his gut stuck on the side, the skirt over his head, and pedalling air frantically until he freed himself.
I swear to this day I have NEVER laughed so hard – we were all literally incapacitated, clutching our sides and weeping with laughter until we got stitches.
And god bless him the first thing he did was walk up to us and without a word, steal all our pints, down them in quick succession, light a fag with trembling hands and after taking a deep drag and theatrically exhaling the smoke, cocked his head to one side, looked at all of coolly and said: ‘you’re all cunts’, which of course just set us all off again and, of course, Keith joined in with that Mutley laugh of his.
I have many treasured memories of that fat bastard, that is my favourite, I hope it made anyone who knew him smile and even if you didn’t, I hope it gave you a measure of the man’s boundless capacity for fun.
I will miss you mate, I hope they’ve got cider, red wine and lots if B&H where you are – rest in raucousness x