Beyond the Painted Smile

By Russell C. Brennan

Biography & memoir, Short stories


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Firstly, I don't want this book to seem like a sob story and if you’ve used your hankie by the end I'm sorry. It is purely an account of the facts of my childhood and early teenage years, brutal as they may have been. But I'm here to tell the tale and that in itself tells you something. I wanted to write this short book as more of an inspiration to people to show what you can achieve and reach your goals in life despite a lot of adversity.

Long before it was trendy to do so, I was doing more than one art form.
Some, I felt I was born to do, like writing, some like music and photography I stumbled into but immediately I felt right at home doing them.

The only other person comparable was my idol David Bowie who I ended up sharing management with some years later.

I remember walking down the street as a 7 years old rearranging songs in my head and changing the sounds as well. Many years later I made a massive dent in the music business as an innovative record producer.

Yes, the artistic vibe hit me early. I started writing stories and even scripts and books around the time puberty kicked in (13). OK, they were not full length works but they showed a lot of promise.

I also knew I had the story telling skills when I would relay an account of a film I had seen to my friends, then hearing them say after seeing the film that it wasn't as good as the way I had described it.

Since I never learnt this skill and it came naturally, was I born with it? Was it in my genes? Well, yes actually, but there was a massive twist in the tale. My father was a Variety Artist on stage and even got on BBC radio and made one record and my Grandmother was somewhat of a popular Vaudeville singer and a bit of a pin-up, on both sides of the Atlantic by all accounts.

The twist was, both elders went out of their way to stop me doing anything in the arts or showbiz as they would call it, which seemed strange to me as I thought in some form I was following in the family footsteps.

My father would shut off the electricity at source starving my electric typewriter of juice and with no overhead lighting or heating either I had to hide under my bed covers wearing gloves, with a torch in one hand and pen in the other, with notepad perched on my knees, in the cold winter months just to write a story. Even when the electricity was on I dare not make a noise with my precious typewriter in case it alerted my, by now, dangerous dad to what I was doing, so it was only when bunking off school I got to use the typewriter to re type what I had hand written the night before. Although my mother was very supportive she had her own issues to deal with, mostly relating to my father’s treatment of her, so encouragement was mostly in short supply.

Bunking off school may seem like a bad idea to most would-be-writers but I learned far more about the world around me than I could ever be taught at school. However, I did make a point of turning up to Football and my English classes because I did find some encouragement from my English teacher whose name now escapes me, much to my shame.

Although I was the worst speller in the class (not knowing I was dyslexic at the time), my teacher said I was the best natural story writer she had come across and that once I added real life experiences to my imagination I could go to the very top if I really put my mind to it and that someone else could always correct the spelling and grammar but she would do her best to help in that area until then.

Years later when my life hung by a thread during one of many adventures I was having I didn't know whether to thank or curse this former teacher.

My other passions in life were football (soccer), music and girls. Even early on at least two of these three pursuits would set the tone for what was to come. At four years old I was sent home from kindergarten along with a girl of the same age for us having our hands inside each other's underwear.

At seven I was heartbroken when the love of my life, Mary, moved away after an incident with a paedophile, although at seven I didn't know what one was, unfortunately a close encounter with a scout master a few years later opened my horizons to such unmentionables and the dark world that lay in that area. I was however one of the lucky ones and escaped almost intact.

Acquiring 7" vinyl records was my number one obsession for quite a while. Each record I bought or shop lifted I studied like a book of knowledge, gaining every detail, from songwriter, producer, record label and of course the artist and even how long the record ran for and the B-side of any single got just as worn out as the A-side. Then there were the sounds themselves that I got totally immersed in. This was time well spent in the end because years later I made a big impact as a record producer and songwriter.

I often cite music and writing as saving my life as they took me away from the daily verbal and physical abuse from my father, the school bullies, the street bullies and even the child minder bullies who would torture me with red hot pokers.

My only other escape was football which I became very good at although this diverted me from my initial interest in girls. I was fast, very skilful and scored lots of goals. Popular with some I managed to suck in jealousy from many others, a trait that I seemed to bring out in others through many different means over the years.

Some said in later years that maybe my father was jealous of me and this was the reason for the abuse. This was because my father was forced to give up his career in Variety to get a boring 9-5 job to support his family at the insistence of his mother and maybe this is why he resented me trying to get on in the arts. Add to this a war injury and his mind and actions were not the kindest. I suffered at the hands of my father as did my brother and mother for 15 years until one day I just snapped. After seeing my mother being beaten up for the umpteenth time by my dad I tried to stop him and stabbed him 10 times with a pair of small nail scissors. The blood was everywhere and I ran out of the flat and hid for a few days just waiting on the arrival of the police.



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