They have to fight an eagle on the top of the Empire State Building

Michael Palin with a goose, October 1980
Photo by McCarthy/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Michael Palin, born in Sheffield on 5th May 1943, is best known as a member of Monty Python, who redefined the world of comedy with their surreal, subversive humour and innovative performances. However, Palin’s career extends beyond comedy thanks to numerous travel documentary series such as Around the World in 80 Days, Pole to Pole, and Full Circle, as well as his bestselling published diaries, from which this entry comes. It was written in May of 1977, as filming continued on the first Superman movie—a day on which he had spent time with Margot Kidder, who was on the cusp of fame for her role as Lois Lane.

The Diary Entry

6th May 1977

Pull myself from slumber by nine and wake myself up by driving down to Old Compton Street for croissants and newspapers. 

Time to clear up and clean up before Danny Aykroyd, Rosie Shuster and friend Margot Kidder drop in “What a well- vacuumed house, Danny” comments. Danny and Rosie have come over on Laker’s Skytrain [a now-defunct budget airline], and say it’s grim but cheap. 

Margot Kidder is playing Lois Lane in the Superman movie (which is still shooting, over a year after they pulled out of Shepperton). 

Apparently most of her work involves hanging in harness alongside Christopher Reeve whilst people do strange things to them. They have to fight an eagle on the top of the Empire State Building. The first ‘eagle’ they got was from Taiwan and looked so un-eagle-like, with a funny red crop on its head, that it was sent home and it was decided instead to use large falcons. The falcons would only fly after chicken bones, so Margot and Superman were suspended, with wind machine blowing them, between one man hurling falcons towards another man holding chicken legs. 

As Superman perspired heavily, leaving tell-tale patches around the armpits of his costume, one member of the crew was standing by to blow-dry his armpits. 

The length and design of Superman’s cock was the subject of much controversy, which culminated in Superman appearing at a photo-session with a large metal dong down his tights. Margot said she got so fed up with this thing digging into her leg that she took to flicking it with her fingernail, causing a light but noticeable metallic ting every time she touched his shorts. 

The Salkinds [producers of the Superman movie] are not the most conventional businessmen, she readily admits, but she thinks the movie will be great and confirms the rumour I heard at the Shepperton board meeting that it will be premiered at the White House.

Further Reading

Most of Michael Palin’s diaries now live at the British Library. So far, three volumes have been published, all of which are fantastic.

Diary entry excerpted from Diaries 1969–1979: The Python Years. Reprinted with permission.

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