For years it lay under the bed but an advert in The Journal Culture magazine prompted Northumberland resident David Brookman to put his best foot forward – for auction.
At the weekend he saw his rare Monty Python foot – instantly recognisable to fans of the groundbreaking BBC TV comedy series – sell for £16,800 (including auctioneer’s commission).
The comical foot, signed by Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam, went to an anonymous foreign collector with a home in the UK who bid by phone.
According to David, who was in the saleroom of Vectis Auctions at Thornaby-on-Tees, a rival bidder drove all the way from Sussex but couldn’t go any higher than £12,000 for the iconic pink foot with its oddly sticking up toe.
After the sale David said he had worked with Terry Gilliam, the one American member of the team behind Monty Python’s Flying Circus – to give the series its full name – for a couple of days in 1971.
He had been an animation cameraman working for a company called Stewart Hardy Films, based in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.
“We were a firm that serviced the film and television industry, producing animated sequences for titles,” he recalled.
“I worked with Terry Gilliam for a couple of days, helping him to film sequences for the German version of Monty Python after they had finished doing all the English episodes. I think the BBC had been commissioned to produce a series for Germany.
“Monty Python was already big in this country at the time but the Germans loved that slightly gothic humour.
“I never saw one of the finished German versions – screened as Die Monty Python’s Fliegender Zirkus – although I know the animated sequences were very similar to what were done for the English version and involved the man in the pram with the squashed up face... and the foot.”
David said he’d assumed the Monty Python foot was a photograph of Terry Gilliam’s own but he learned that it was taken from a famous painting.
“We had a couple of days shooting under the camera and he was a very nice guy to work with, although he was a bit of a one-off, as most of the Pythons were.
“He came in with this portfolio of photographic images and just chucked them under the camera and moved them around. He had all the timings in his head. It was all a bit strange to me. I just basically pushed the button and he did all the work.”
David recalled that the animator, who went on to be a successful film director, was exasperated by the morning and afternoon tea breaks the British crew was required to take because of union rules.
When the shoot was done, David remarked to Gilliam that the foot picture was looking a bit tatty now.
“He said, ‘You can have it if you like’. Then he said, ‘I’ll sign it if you like... delusions of grandeur’.”
He signed it and David promptly stored it under the bed where it has lain ever since – although not necessarily in the same bedroom. When he and wife Jill retired, they moved to Northumberland because they liked the area.
The couple, along with the foot, have been here for the last 16 years and now live in Humshaugh.
David said he had never been tempted to put his signed foot picture on the wall at home.
“It didn’t fit in with our scheme. It’s bright pink and it is a bit tatty. Frankly, we improved it by having it mounted properly and putting a frame round it.”
He said he decided to sell his bit of TV history as part of de-cluttering. After his son attempted in vain to sell it via an online auction, David had spotted the Vectis Auctions advert in Culture magazine, published monthly with The Journal.
“I didn’t know about the Monty Python reunion shows coming up but I think this might have been a good time to sell,” he said.
David, who is 76, said he had enjoyed the Monty Python TV series but had never seen any of the films. He was glad his adopted foot had gone to a good home.