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31.5.09

1983: Changes In Coronation Street...

Coronation Street had lost long-established regular characters Jack Walker (Arthur Leslie), Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant) and Jerry Booth (Graham Haberfield) from the cast in the '70s. Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix) had left for around three years and then returned. The Street's production team were well aware that the old order was subject to change. 1980 saw the final appearance of Ena Sharples. Violet Carson had appeared less and less frequently during the ten years leading up to her farewell.

When Ena left
The Street, bound for her old friend Mr Foster's house at Lytham St Anne's, nobody knew that she would never return. Ena made it known that she was somewhat cheesed off with Weatherfield, but that was nothing new!

In 1983, a few months short of Violet Carson's death, the
Daily Mirror was carrying an article entitled "I'll Be Back Vows Ena".

1983 saw The Street entering stormy waters indeed - the year saw the final appearances of Len Fairclough (Peter Adamson) and the newly-wed Eddie (Geoffrey Hughes) and Marion Yeats (Veronica Doran), who had met so romantically over the CB airwaves in 1982, and short-stayer Chalkie Whiteley (Teddy Turner). Actually, it wasn't quite Eddie's final appearance as he popped back to see "Mrs O" (Jean Alexander) in 1987.

Before the end of '83, we knew that 1984 would see us bidding farewell to Elsie Tanner again. And, as it turned out, '84 would see the deaths of Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth), Bert Tilsley (Peter Dudley) and Stan Ogden (Bernard Youens).

1983 did have its up-side: the Duckworths moved into No 9. Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn) had been a character in the show for years, although never a resident of The Street. In November 1979, we first met her husband Jack (William Tarmey), who was developed into a fully fledged character during various short stints in the show in the early 1980s.

In 1977, Vera had entered a glamorous granny contest at the community centre. But in 1983, as she at last moved into The Street, the writers gave some attention to her family background, did away with the granny concept, and introduced a crafty, cynical son, Terry (Nigel Pivaro), born in the mid-1960s.

One of the people most horrified to see the Duck Eggs move into Coronation Street was Annie Walker (Doris Speed), landlady of The Rovers Return. But sadly she wouldn't have to put up with them for long. Doris Speed fell ill in late 1983 and was never well enough to appear in the show again.

From the Sun, 1/10/1983:

Crisis-torn Coronation Street has been rocked yet again - by the collapse of actress Doris Speed in the TV studios.

Last night, as she recovered at home after three days treatment, she said: "I was very brave. I battled right through to the end and managed to get all my lines out."

It was hoped that Doris would be well enough to return to the show, but by early 1984 it was evident she probably wouldn't. So, Annie's retirement was announced on-screen, and son Billy (Kenneth Farrington) returned to run his mother's old empire. Billy's short tenure at the pub was stormy, and soon the Walker era at The Rovers was history.

But not quite. It was never part of an episode, but Doris/Annie did appear behind the bar at The Rovers again. In 1987/88, a large cheque was offered for charity if Doris would step back behind the bar as part of an ITV Telethon. She agreed.

This was a very different Rovers to her old domain - burnt down in 1986. But there was no doubt that the new bar suited her and there was also no doubt that Annie was in charge - I seem to remember Bet (Julie Goodyear) and Alec Gilroy (Roy Barraclough) standing respectfully behind her as she accepted the cheque for charity from the benefactor ("That should buy you a very large drink!") and operated the new beer pump, commenting with typical Doris Speed wit that the old pumps had required more effort and were better at developing the cleavage!

Does anybody have a copy of this Telethon footage? I would love to see it again!

The tabloids made much of the Street "Crisis"! Inside the Sun carrying the news of Doris Speed's sudden departure from the studios was the article pictured above:

Coronation Street, Britain's best-loved soap opera, has been rocked by crisis after crisis in the last few weeks.

The star cast has been drastically slashed as one after another of the big names have been axed or decided to move out of The Street.

In the next two months we will say goodbye to Elsie Tanner, Len Fairclough, Eddie Yeats and Marion Willis. Bert Tilsley has already been written out.

And the future for Stan Ogden, Annie Walker and Albert Tatlock must mean smaller and smaller parts as they battle ill health and old age.

For Coronation Street addicts, it will be almost like moving house, with a whole new set of neighbours to get used to.

Characters who have had little more to do than lean on the bar at The Rovers will find themselves on The Street to stardom as scriptwriters expand their stories to fill the gaps.

Who will be the second generation of Coronation Street stars?

The Sun has been looking at the young characters now in the series, and working out how their parts could be developed.

Most of the characters listed are long forgotten! Do you remember Pamela Mitchell or Don Watkins? I do remember Roy Valentine, who seemed set to become The Street's first regular black character:

From the Sun:

Roy Valentine, Len Fairclough's odd-job boy, played by Tony Marshall.

DEBUT: March, 1983.

A cheeky charmer out to better himself. He isn't going to let his colour stop him getting on in life or getting off with the girls.

STAR POTENTIAL:

Six out of ten. He'll be teaching the regulars how to reggae down at the new disco. And he could set the lace curtains twitching when he walks down the street with his first girlfriend.

Sadly, the departure of Len Fairclough meant the end of Roy Valentine.

Then there was:

Curly Watts, Eddie Yeats' new partner on the bins, played by Kevin Kennedy.

Debut: August, 1983.

He's single but goofy, yucky and downright plain. Still he's got the sort of cheeky Northern wit that goes down well with a pint.

STAR POTENTIAL:

Four out of ten. This spindly lad with the John Lennon specs certainly doesn't look like a heart-throb but neither did Eddie. Maybe he'll be able to laugh his way into the arms of some girl.

Of course, for the more discerning viewer, there was Victor Pendlebury:

Mavis' one and only love, played by Christopher Coll.

Debut: October, 1982.

He may have a boring job at the local council, but at heart he is a passionate poet.

He nurtured more than just Mavis' writing skills when they penned a racy short story together. Then Mavis refused to live in sin.

STAR POTENTIAL:

Six out of ten. The Street needs another married couple and Victor could be the man to save Mavis from becoming an old maid.

And what about Des Foster?

Councillor played by Neil Phillips.

Debut: July, 1983.

He's a married man with an eye for busty barmaids. Bet Lynch's earrings started quivering the moment he walked into the Rovers and fixed her with his big blue eyes. She pulled his pint and he pulled her.

But his wife in the wings made even Bet lose her bottle and she gave him the heave-ho.

STAR POTENTIAL:

Nine out of ten. He could be the cad every woman loves to hate, a natural rival for rogue romeo Mike Baldwin.

If he ditches his wife, his return to the Rovers would give Bet's big heart a flutter - and he would be fair game for any other footloose and fancy free regulars.

This young lady got ten out of ten from the Sun...

Sharon Gaskell, Len Fairclough's wayward foster daughter, played by Tracie Bennett.

Debut: March, 1982.

The best news to hit The Street for years, a real naughty girl.

Sexy Sharon had her own fan club within a month of moving into The Street.

STAR POTENTIAL:

Ten out of ten. She's only young but she's the only female around with enough sex appeal to step into Elsie Tanner's stilettos. She'll leave a lot of broken hearts - and even broken marriages - behind her before she settles down.

Of course, The Street weathered its losses. And things didn't turn out quite as the Sun envisaged!

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