Olly Lennard fills his corner of P17 with hilariously dark nonsense about cartoon characters. This week: Winnie the Pooh.
Winston “Winnie” T. Pooh was first discovered living in the Hundred Acre Wood in Ashdown, Sussex, in 1926. Since bears are not native to the area he quickly made the news in the same manner as other displaced animals such as the Essex Lion, the Beast of Dartmoor and Wayne Rooney. A local boy, Christopher Robin, was credited with the find having discovered Pooh whilst out picking hallucinogenic mushrooms. Along with his animal friends, Pooh became the subject of his own series and found a place in the growing ranks of bear celebrities that included Yogi, Baloo and Robbie Coltrane. For years Pooh and friends brought a warm glow to the hearts of many, especially during the difficult years of the Blitz when he aided in clearing rubble from London’s streets with help from Dangermouse. In recognition of this, he was given a CBE (Certificate of Bear Excellence) in 1951.
But the modern age brought with it a wave of Pooh pooh-poohers. Pooh was famous for living under the name of ‘Sanders’, but the anti-corporation movement of the 1960s criticised this as shameless product placement by KFC. Mental health activists were also quick to point out that the character of Rabbit had clear obsessive-compulsive disorder and Eeyore suffered from crippling depression. In addition, Pooh himself, often seen carrying a jar of ‘Hunny’ was criticised for making fun of dyslexic people.
Things only became worse when co-star Tigger, famed for his bounciness and energy, was exposed as a cocaine addict. Not long after this revelation Tigger himself was shot and his penis ground up for traditional Chinese medicine. This was thought to be the final trigger factor for Eeyore, who was found hanging from his own tail later the same year. The slurs continued as Kanga was realised to be an oppressive female stereotype, defined only by her role as Roo’s mother.
Pooh himself withdrew more and more from the cast of the show following Eeyore’s suicide, often talking only with Christopher Robin and holding honey-fuelled orgies with the cast of the Magic Roundabout. The series limped on, with the Olsen twins replacing Eeyore and Tigger, prompting a sharp dive in ratings. Macaulay Culkin even took on the role of Piglet in 1977 when an accident at a local abattoir led to the original Piglet being turned into sausages. To add insult to injury, a local family later revealed that the sausages were not particularly tasty.
In 1979 the decision was taken to axe the show, though Pooh’s career continued for a time. He had a brief cameo in The Great Muppet Caper, as well as the music video for David Hasselhoff’s Lovin’ Feelings. Rabbit continued to struggle with OCD until he was hit by a tractor and killed in 1984. The Richard Adams novel Watership Down was based on his early life. Christopher Robin joined the Royal Navy and served for a number of years, reaching the rank of Petty Officer Second Class, but drowned when HMS Sheffield was sunk during the Falklands War. The Hundred Acre Wood was largely cut down in the 1990s and made into tasteless wooden ornaments to be sold to ditzy middle-class white women at farmers’ markets. Following this, Kanga and Roo left their media careers and moved back to Australia. The only cast member to successfully move on from the show was Owl, who now presents QI.
Meanwhile, Pooh himself entered a downward spiral. Continually hounded by the media and with old age and heavy drug abuse catching up with him, he declined rapidly. The pressure finally got to him in September 1991 outside a nightclub in Peckham, when he gave in to his bear instincts and mauled a bartender who refused to serve him his seventh jar of honey. The bartender received 70 stitches in his face and neck and Pooh checked into rehab the following week. Upon leaving the institution Pooh was bankrupt, having lost what was left of his money in an out of court settlement with the victim of his violent outburst. He remained optimistic however, and in spring of 1992 he told reporters that he was hopeful for a drug, alcohol and violence free future, and perhaps even the brightly lit and long-awaited return to television that his forgiving, nostalgic and still loyal fans had been hoping for.
The next day Pooh was shot dead and stuffed by Sarah Palin. His house is now one of the most famous dogging sites in the British Isles.
Olly Lennard is a second year comedian and actor. You can follow him on Twitter, @OllyLennard.
Illustration: Ruairidh Bowen