In Harrogate recently I needed to come up with a few words to sum up my show, something to go underneath my name to give people an idea of what they'd be getting if they bought a ticket – a strap line, if you will. Sitting in Betty's chewing my pen, searching for inspiration, I noticed a local bus driving by, “The Little Red Bus,” it said, "Getting you there". Well, I should hope so.I began to notice 100s of useless, redundant and plain silly strap lines. Bankers, never ones to skimp on irony offered some delicious examples. Nat West, for example, assures us they provide “Helpful banking”. The Royal Bank of Scotland used to be the bank to “Make it happen,” well, it certainly did that; and Northern Rock apparently "Works for me," which is reassuring since they owe me and every other British tax payer £1.4 billion.
As a former HSBC customer, I once popped in to their branch in Montevideo to deposit a cheque in my UK account. “That may be difficult,” they told me. I asked them what their strap line “The world's local bank,” actually meant. “We don't know about that,” they said, “but you will have to take your cheque home and bank it locally.”
The TSB used to be the bank that liked to say “Yes”. As it happens they said yes a little too often. Now Lloyds TSB, like every other bank, prefers to say "no". You wouldn't guess that from their new strap line though: "For the journey". Well, I don't know where they're going but I am not sure I want to go with them.
Bankers are, I hear, the most hated people in England, but there is an individual who is more despised still: Andie MacDowell. A fine actress, but if I have to hear her tell me she's “worth it” one more time I swear I will throw my Smooth Intense Anti Frizz Serum at the telly.
L'Oreal are constantly telling us buy their super-thickening-eye-lash-enhancer because we're all worth it. Don't worry if your credit cards are maxed out and you can barely fit your over inflated sense of self-entitlement through the door, buy it anyway. Perhaps they'll consider a more honest alternative: "Because I'm can't help it."
Pear's soap had a more gentle approach for more gentle times: "Preparing to be a beautiful lady."
Apparently, lyricist Charles Hart was once commissioned to come up with a strap line for the city of Birmingham. The best he could come up with was, "There's plenty to do." At least you can understand that, unlike Dartford who's strap line is: "If only all Councils were like Dartford". Chorley Borough Council gets my vote for "Making Chorley Smile". Bless them.
In Chicago once I ate at Jilly's Steak house. Right under their name outside there's a quote from Frank Sinatra, or rather half a quote: "My favourite restaurant..." It makes a nice strap line but I've always wondered what actually followed the dot, dot, dot. "My favourite restaurant... is two blocks from here”? Who knows.
KFC is of course "Finger lickin' good", which does give fair warning to the uninitiated fast foodie that cutlery is not provided. It reminds me of the first time I visited a MacDonald's. Though is was the new big thing in Grimsby and everyone who was no one had already been, it took my mother six months to eventually take me. Kudos to her. I remember getting my food and going back to the counter to ask for a knife and fork. "Sorry love, you just use your fingers." I was shocked. Genuinely. Even back then I couldn't get over how this glitzy American import has taken dining back to the stone age. All around me people sat hunched over polystyrene boxes shoving chips in their gobs with their fingers. Apparently though we're all “lovin' it”.
So here I am looking for my own strap line. I've tried “Gary Williams – Because You're Worth It”, and “Gary Williams – Finger Lickin' Good” but in the end I decided to follow the example of Harrogate's Little Red Bus and choose something simple and to the point: “Gary Williams – From Big Band to Broadway.” That's the best I've got.