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Archive for the ‘Tommy Cannon (not the one out of Cannon and Ball)’ Category

In the latest of our series of Friday Interviews, Graham Bandage talks to Tommy Cannon (no relation) about his work as a celebrity abbreviation consultant.

Graham Bandage: Tell me how this whole thing started.

Tommy Cannon: It was back in the late 70s, during the national typeface strike. It cost us a fortune at the Daily Mirror to reproduce the Prime Minister’s name in headlines because letters were so scarce.

GB: I can see how that would be a problem.

TC: The letter L was in particularly short supply.

GB: Bloody ‘ell.

TC: I know…

GB: Heh, bloody L. L!

TC: Anyway, I was quite a junior sub-editor at the time, and I came up with the idea of abbreviating his name. That’s where J-Cal came from. And that was it – I was set for life.

GB: It must have been Ford Capris and Warninks Snowballs all the way for you.

TC: Not at first. I mean my head was turned. “Look who’s here,” people would say, “the man who’s revitalised the newspaper industry through cunning use of abbreviation.” Who could fail to be flattered?

GB: Not I.

TC: But I had an early failure. M-Tha didn’t take off. People kept pronouncing it as ‘mutha.’ We were a laughing stock in the Compton projects. Richard Pryor did a famous routine about it. “The Lady’s not for turning? I’ll turn her jive ass.” Then the Daily Express nipped in with Mrs T. If only she’d come to prominence a few years later, the whole Mr T thing would have rendered that abbreviation unusable.

GB: So what happened?

TC: Chinese got into type manufacture. We got a load of cheap letters. All of a sudden the type shortage was a thing of the past. M-Tha had broken the font unions.

GB: It does sound a bit like ‘mutha,’ to be fair.

TC: Shut up. And I was suddenly flavour of last month. I was sacked for being rubbish and spent the next 15 years or so faffing about the likes of Chat, Forum and Woman’s Own, subbing knitting patterns, stuff like that.

GB: Soul-destroying work.

TC: It gets worse. I ended up on one of those celebrity magazines, Photoshopping cellulite onto Gwyneth Paltrow’s thighs.

GB: Rock bottom.

TC: She has, that’s why it felt so wrong.

GB: No, I mean…

TC: And that’s where it all turned around. The editor couldn’t spell Jennifer. Kept writing “Jeniffer.” It was fine as long as there wasn’t a famous Jennifer – I mean, at this time Jennifers Connolly and Grey couldn’t get arrested in Hollywood, not even for doing a Winona. But when Ms Lopez came on the scene, he was proper buggered.

GB: Yeah, I heard that sort of thing went on in those places.

TC: So I walked into his office one day with this:

He was stunned. He called me a crazy fool, said it would never work. “Tom,” he said, “Our readers are serious people who would no more abbreviate a celebrity’s name than they would ring a premium rate telephone number several times to stop somebody being on the telly every night.” But I knew, I knew…
Anyway, one night we were doing the cover and it was painful, “Gennifer. Jenifar. Jennyfur.” He tried everything. In the end he was exhausted. He collapsed over his mouse. And I took destiny in my hands. I wrote on the screen that fateful headline: “Do you reckon J-Lo’s bottom is on the large side?” and sent it to the printers.

GB: That took gumption.

TC: It certainly did. But it paid off. That was the biggest-selling edition of “A Bit Snide About Celebrities” magazine ever. After that I was the go-to guy for abbreviations. Set up on my own as A-CONT.

GB: Beg pardon.

TC: Abbreviation Consultant. I followed up J-Lo with Brangelina.

GB: That was you?

TC: Yep. Li-Lo, K-Fed, TomKat. All me. But not R-Pattz. Even I have limits.

GB: You must be very proud.

TC: No. I hate myself.

GB: Tommy Cannon, thank you.

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