"You can bet that civil servants won't be thrown out of the Ministry of Defence," says Major Sir Michael Parker tersely. New rumours of deeper cuts to Armed Forces personnel have rattled him. "I would like to line them all up on a wall and push every tenth person off."
Britain's pageant master extraordinary has not always enjoyed working with civil servants. Faced with his terrifyingly ambitious plans to celebrate a royal jubilee or a Second World War milestone, he has found them, with one or two exceptions, obstructive and lacking in imagination. But this is not a cheap jibe made in payback time. Sir Michael despairs that soldiers are being sacrificed time and again on the altar of defence cuts while the ministry protects its own.
"It is really sad," he says. "I'd like to think this has been thought through but I'm not certain it has. The Services are a very obedient group of people. The civil servants think they can cut as much as they like because they won't cut up rough. They're easier to kick than anybody else.
"Few things in this country work as well as the military. Today's young soldiers are every bit as good and proud and dedicated as their fathers and grandfathers were. How can we support oppressed people in new places with fewer soldiers? They will be made to work harder and harder but you won't see many civil servants being thrown out of the MoD."
After Sandhurst, Sir Michael was commissioned into the Queen's Own Hussars where he served as a troop leader in Germany, a gunnery instructor at Lulworth in Dorset and an adjutant to his regiment abroad. His home life was miserable. "The Army became my first real family and has remained so, even though I left it in 1971. If you don't want to be a general, there's no point in staying."
In service, he discovered a flair for putting on plays and organising military events - an obsession that reached its apotheosis with the Queen Mother's 100th birthday celebrations, for which he was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
Most of us go through life trying to avoid problems. Sir Michael invents them. The bigger and more lunatic the project, the greater the physical daring, the better he likes it. "If you are 100 per cent certain that an event is going to work perfectly," he says, "you're probably doing the wrong thing. You have to be masochistic. I always take the difficult way out."
His new book, It's All Going Terribly Wrong: The Accidental Showman, is a hectic account of some of the risks he took in 46 years of producing grand events with casts of thousands, and the unexpected mirth it caused the Queen when things did not go to plan.
He recalls the Silver Jubilee beacon-lighting in Windsor Great Park, his first national spectacular. Worried that the vast beacon would not light fast enough, he had stuffed it with fireworks and positioned a Royal Signals major to press the detonator. The man did so prematurely. The Queen's ceremonially lit fuse was still fizzing gently along the ground when the bonfire burst into flames 60 yards away. "Can't think why you bothered to ask me!" she laughed.
There was trouble with the sound system. Then a deafening firework mortar went off instead of a flare. "You can bullshit at moments like this," he says, "but the best decision I made in my life was to be honest. 'Your Majesty', I said, 'I'm afraid it's all going terribly wrong.' Her face lit up. 'Oh good,' she said. 'What fun!'
"I feel sorry for her, having to watch so much dreary stuff all the time. Anything that keeps you awake and makes you smile must be a good thing. The Queen is always amused by cock-ups, as long as they're not serious. Most people would not notice the things that go wrong. She doesn't miss a trick.
"I have always tried to live by my motto: Never tell people what is supposed to happen, then they won't know when it hasn't."
Sir Michael has produced more than 320 events including the Queen Mother's 80th, 90th and 100th birthdays, the Hyde Park fireworks for Prince Charles and Diana's wedding, the VE and VJ Day celebrations and 26 Royal Tournaments. The total bill over 30 years, he says, was less than the cost of the 2012 Olympic Games.
"Not that I begrudge them a penny. I thought the Games ceremonies were brilliant. But I have no regrets about not being part of it because I know from bitter experience that that sort of bureaucracy would have been completely unacceptable. Some 'experts' are creeps. They talk from such ignorance. I can't stand being run by creeps."
Experts, he says, told him he could not have a bagpipe player doing a "death slide" from 100ft at the Berlin Tattoo. (He did.) Experts said 100 camels could not be merged amicably with 100 horses for the 35th anniversary of King Hussein of Jordan's coronation. (They were.) Experts insisted there was no space for dressing rooms in the Dome for 1,000 performers at the Millennium celebrations. (He resigned.)
For many years, Sir Michael produced epic shows without an office, a production company, a PA or a fee while simultaneously running a profitable antiques business with his aunt Maggie. Having no wife then either, he could work deep into the night, painting elaborate sets, and inventing ever wilder stunts, usually involving fireworks.
"There may be some who think I'm too old for this game," he said when he was 68, "but I only feel about eight. I just love blowing things up." In his study are the original paintings and intricate working models for all 26 Royal Tournaments.
His campaign plan ("Let's compromise and do it my way") was to invite key technicians and engineers to lunch, with several bottles of decent wine, on the basis that "lunch is the most relaxing medium over which to be creative." He would cook for them and pour wine until they agreed with him that an idea was possible. "My motto was never to regard 'no' as an acceptable answer." Then he would persuade celebrities such as Dame Judi Dench and Sir Cliff Richard to appear for good causes.
In a foreword to Sir Michael's entertaining memoir, Sir Cameron Mackintosh writes: "America may have given us P T Barnum and Florenz Ziegfeld, but Michael Parker in full military flood makes Andrew Lloyd Webber and me feel like wallflowers."
During abortive Millennium talks about how to reflect the achievements of the Armed Forces inside the Dome, Sir Cameron remembers Sir Michael as a fount of hilarious excess "offering to recreate anything from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the bombing of Dresden", adding: "He thinks PC is an abbreviation for an officer of the law."
It is a great shame that Sir Michael's revels are over. At 71, he is recovering from heart surgery and has had to retire - though he is still an impressive figure in his red socks, red trousers and blue pullover. Late in life, he married his PA, Emma, and they live on the banks of the Test near Andover, Hants. His 26-year-old stepson, Oliver, is a stage manager.
Naturally the accidental showman is not leaving his own funeral to chance or the experts. He has booked the Morriston Orpheus Choir. There will be plenty of military music and some trademark special effects. "The coffin will open," he booms, "and I'll say: 'Hi folks, how lovely of you all to come.' I want to be there."
It's All Going Terribly Wrong: The Accidental Showman by Michael Parker (Benefactum Publishing, RRP pounds 20) is available from Telegraph Books at pounds 18 + pounds 1.35p&p. Call 0844 871 1514 or visit books.telegraph.co.uk