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7.9.20

Falcon Crest

Fabulous Jane Wyman donned a grey wig for the Vintage Years - the pilot of Falcon Crest - in 1981, but got rid of it for the series.

It always sounds really snobbish when you name something you like that is mass popular, and the person you are speaking to says: 'Oh, really? I prefer...' - and names something obscure.

But I'm afraid that's genuinely how I am about the big 1980s-era American soaps. Dallas? Nope. Dynasty? Nope. Knots Landing? Nope.

I'm a dedicated Falcon Crest man.

Now, in England, Falcon Crest, or 'Falccy' as I fondly nicknamed it, was often broadcast on ITV regional stations in grotty afternoon slots, or at Sunday teatime - sometime naff. But, as a shift worker, I managed to sink a basinful of it and loved it.

I suppose it all began with an idea for a series possibly set in America and France, or a series called The Barclays, about an American urban family moving from New York to small town Kentucky or...

Filming of a drama called The Vintage Years took place in the spring of 1981. This was the pilot for what would become Falcon Crest and featured some of the ingredients - including the location, the Spring Mountain Winery in California's Napa Valley, which would be the location for Falcon Crest.

It also featured Jane Wyman as Angela Channing, the leading Mrs Nasty of Falcon Crest, in a grey wig - which Miss Wyman hated!

It was a tale of vineyards and a family divided, very much as the series would be, but it wasn't the finished product by any means.

As it was never screened, I never saw it - but I believe it's now available online.

Changes were made to cast and characters - and Jane Wyman pushed for changes to Angela.

'She's very much a 1981 kind of lady,' she said just before the show's American debut in December 1981.

My goodness, she was. English TV critic Hilary Kingsley described her in 1988 as 'rotten to the pips', but there was more to Angela than that. Her main problem, as her daughter Emma pointed out, was that she loved the land more than she loved her family. And was prepared to use any trick in the book to keep it.


Angela's role as Queen Bee of the fictional Tuscany Valley took a severe knock when her nephew, Chase Gioberti, arrived in the early 1980s to claim his inheritance. Don't worry. She was up to the fight.

Had Miss Wyman been cast because of her ex-husband, Ronald Reagan's, recent elevation (in November 1980) to US President? Series creator Earl Hamner jr, who had given us that loving 1930s family The Waltons (Spencer's Mountain with plenty of tears but without the grit) said she had not.

It did add to the interest though - but Jane Wyman was quite capable of holding the viewer's interest long after the fascination of seeing Ronnie's ex-wife had faded.

What really attracted me to the show was its delicious sense of humour.

Hapless greedy and lustful Melissa Agretti telling her 'loving' husband Lance Cumson: 'Your whole family's weird. Your mother murdered my father...' for instance.

The characters actually stood back at times and saw the absurdity of the soapy plots.

It could be very droll - as Melissa said to Angela:

'Don't worry, Angela, I'll still be available for family occasions - weddings, funerals, and, of course, the occasional shooting.'


Ana Alicia was fabulous as 'that fiesty Melissa Agretti' - as Angela once called her.

It had all the prime time soap ingredients, of course, but I also thought it had more atmosphere and depth.

Angela's daughters, Emma and Julia, for instance - driven mad over a period of many years by their oppressive mother - and this madness manifesting itself in quite different ways.

Falccy was enthralling - plane crashes, vicious business cartels, long lost relatives, earthquakes, shootings, fires, Nazis... it had the lot - and more!

Great cast, too. There were rumours of backstage hostilities. When veteran film actress Lana Turner appeared in one season, Jane Wyman reportedly refused to act with her - and some scenes had to be recorded separately. Finally, Miss Wyman was reported to have said that either she remained in the series, or Miss Turner - not both.

Lana Turner's character was killed off in a shooting at the Falcon Crest mansion.

As for the behind the scenes revelations - rumour or truth? The speculation all added to the fun of watching the series - and it was an immensely enjoyable series, made with great skill and gusto.


In 1981, the cast of Falcon Crest appeared to be quite dowdy, but, as the 1980s took wing, power dressing and glitz became the norm. Here's some of the regulars, circa 1987. The man in the middle is Lorenzo Lamas, Angela's grandson, Lance Cumson. He never quite outwitted his 'loving' granny.

I will never forget Jane Wyman as Angela, Margaret Ladd as her delightfully dotty daughter Emma, Abby Dalton as her other daughter - the driven-over-the-edge Julia Cumson, Cha Li Chi as Cha Li - the wise butler at the Falcon Crest mansion, David Selby as Richard Channing - the milk-drinking business mogul, Susan Sullivan as lovely Maggie Gioberti - persecuted in-law of Angela, and Lorenzo Lamas and Ana Alicia as Lance and Melissa Cumson - wow, that couple had sparks!

Required viewing at the time - and on DVD now. It lifts any free afternoon way out of the mundane.

2.9.20

Mel and Kim

Fun, love, money and hair. The 1980s loved them all. And the sparkling new hair products, mousse, gel and extensions. Kim recalls that Mel washed her extended hairdo and phoned her with an urgent warning: 'Kim! Don't wash it! It goes like a mattress!'

Mel and Kim Appleby were two young English sisters - cockneys to be precise. They scaled the heights of pop stardom in the late 1980s and we loved them. They were celebrated not just for their talent but for being two English black women (or women of colour or whatever the current politically correct saying is) who'd scaled those heights, but I'd long ago learned that English was not a colour, and I was simply bowled over by their music, dance moves and sparkling sense of fun.

I remember seeing them being interviewed by Andrea Arnold (Dawn of kids' show No 73) and they were so natural, down-to-earth and downright likeable I could have grabbed a mug of tea and joined them for a natter without feeling even remotely star-struck - not like when I met Percy Sugden from Coronation Street and was absolutely gobsmacked.

Mel and Kim made it big as part of the Stock/Aitken/Waterman starburst, although Mel was already a model.

The news that Mel had cancer was stunning. I associated the sisters with fun and dance and wonderful nights out, me splashing on the latest swanky aftershave, dolloping on mousse or hair gel, and my latest Miami Vice inspired finery.

And not tragedy.

The meeting of the two extremes seemed incomprehensible to me at the time. I struggled to get my head round it.

Now I still listen to their music at times, and dance and smile and remember the good times, but not without more than a hint of sadness. 

And I say...

God bless, Mel - and all the best, Kim. Thanks for providing the soundtrack to some lovely times. x

22.6.20

The 1980s - What Did We Do Before Fact Checkers, The World Wide Web, Wikipedia, etc, etc.

Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989. When it celebrated 30 years in 2019, I began to take a look at what it had become.


Looking back at the 1980s is to peer into a different world. The computer revolution was beginning, but the World Wide Web wasn't even invented until 1989, and not up and running until the early '90s, so what did we do in place of the things so many modern day 'clever' folk take for granted?

Well...

Let's begin...

Wow, Christmas 1982 - and if you were terribly posh and a complete nerd you might have had a Christmas like this. But it's not likely.

Fact Checkers - they check the facts so you don't have to. They back their own viewpoints and often the Establishment, pouring ridicule on anything outside of that. Say anything outside of the narrative? You're a conspiracy theorist - and all right-minded folk must shun you. You're 'far right' and, no doubt, your bum smells. Your accuser's, of course, does not.

In the 1980s: You formed your own opinions. You read various things. You might have been absolutely hidebound in your opinions, but many people were less comfortable, more investigative, more opinionated. In the main, we didn't want people to tell us what to think. We wanted to find out for ourselves. And we didn't just trust governments or organisations like the UN - which is a lot of the problem now. People can read absolutely irrefutable facts, but there seems to be some sort of cognitive dissonance in applying them when 'experts' say something else. The official narrative has to be adhered to.

Rating (in my opinion): 1980s: 10, 21st Century: 0.


Usenet began in 1980 as a tiny concern for university geeks and professors. It can't really be called a forerunner to the Web, but it did have newsgroups which exchanged fascinating information. Read the above. See what I mean? Most of the world was blissfully unaware. We took a look here.

Wikipedia: What an odd idea! Anybody can write anything? But editors are on hand to correct false information? Um, usually only if it fits their own agenda. A lot of Wikipedia is unreadable. The SJWs rule it and it's propaganda writ large. And 1980s = BAD! Very bad! It's rather like a schoolkid's effort at an encyclopedia. 

Now, I know the arguments: 'Oh, yes, but Wikipedia contains links to dependable information!' Does it? Not in a lot of my experiences with the site it doesn't! It cherry-picks and blocks dissenting voices and there is nothing balanced about it when it comes to issues like Feminism at all. In fact, the article on Feminism is like a brain washing lesson in the ideology. And, guess what? Google and the like include a little panel on searches with Wikipedia articles linked! So, many people will be innocently drawn to the site. BONKERS!

Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia at all. And the lame brained-ness of people who use it at all is one of the most worrying early 21st Century online trends - in my opinion.

In the 1980s: People read things in encyclopedias, and read other books. People agreed or disagreed with the authors. People asked questions. People didn't tell other people to 'stand away from their rage totems' if they disliked their discussion of misandry or whatever. People discussed, they argued, they sometimes had a punch-up. But they didn't face a bunch of sheeple bleating at them and blocking them, sheeple fully convinced of their own goodness, and making sure other views don't get a hearing, whilst theirs - often highly flawed and even bigoted - do, and become the narrative.

Rating: 1980s: 10, 21st Century: 0.

I'll return to this theme at some point, 'cos it's dead interesting, don't you think? No? Oh well, we're glad you have your own views on the subject!

See you soon. xxx

6.6.20

The McVitie's Hobnob Biscuit - 1985 - 2020 - 35th Anniversary

From the McVitie's website - the launch of the mighty Hobnob biscuit in 1985 was quickly followed by others, like the chocolate variety, launched in 1987. Rolled oats and crunch and - YUM!

Just a quick shout-out to one of the very best biscuits of all time - and one, of course, launched in the 1980s - the McVitie's Hobnob. No biscuit since the Jaffa Cake (all right that's a cake, I know!) have ever made such a big splash with me. I loved 'em from the first - dunking 'em wildly in my tea and getting through a whole packet per mug, and I still love 'em to this day.

I particularly liked them for night shifts when I was working at the local psychiatric hospital - they were very fortifying and cheering on my tea break.

The Hobnob was launched in 1985, and the '85 original TV advert contained the slogan 'One Nibble and You're Nobbled'. Beautiful.

Oatey and crunchie and mind-numblingly beautiful when dunked in a cuppa, I can still scoff my way through loads. A true quality product. 

Very like the 1980s themselves, of course (ahem).

Of course, I'm against advertising here, but you must give some products their due.

And if McVitie's would care to slip me some Hobnobs as a thank you, I won't say no.

Just remember, 'More Is More' - as we used to say back in the day!

Read some McVitie's history, including the launch of the Hobnob, here:

https://mcvities.co.uk/about


7.5.20

Rubik's Cube, 7 May 1980 - An Important Anniversary...

I'm writing and posting this article on the seventh of May 2020, and it is a very important anniversary. On this day, the 'Rubik's Cube' trademark was registered in the UK back in 1980. Not that we were suddenly flooded with Cubes - no, there was a shortage and that is the reason 1981 was The Year of the Cube rather than 1980, but it's still an important date.

Although they were in very short supply when they started arriving here, just before Christmas 1980, the British Association of Toy Retailers noted the interest shown and declared it 'Toy of the Year'. As the craze raged after we were fully stocked in the spring of 1981, the association named it 'Toy of the Year' for 1981 too!

The Rubik's Cube made it on to the front cover of the Sunday Times Magazine's review of 1981 - and is listed just below the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. A special Cube depicting the union flag and the faces of the Royal couple, was produced to commemorate the occasion in July 1981.


The Cube was such a craze - it made a legend of its creator, Erno Rubik of Hungary, and saturated popular culture from late 1980 to 1982.

From the invention of the Magic Cube prototype in 1974, to a change of name and mass manufacture to Western World safety and packaging specifications in 1980, seems a short leap. Many inventions take much longer to come to prominence. But the world was very different back then. Hungary was very much 'Behind The Iron Curtain' - and the Cube's penetration of that Curtain was very noteworthy indeed - particularly in such a short amount of time. When you consider that the first test batches of the Magic Cube were not even released in Hungary until late 1977, its progress to the West seems even more remarkable.

When the remanufactured and renamed Rubik's Cube burst upon the world in 1980, curtesy of Ideal Toys, it was a huge hit. Perhaps its launch at the start of the new decade helped with that - new decades are eager for new fads - but the Cube was entrancing in its own right. It was aesthetically pleasing, bright primary colours with black edgings, it looked like a child's toy - surely easy to complete? (HUH!) - and it took over many lives.

Daily Mirror, 12 August, 1981: The craze was raging. Cube mania was rampant!

Ours sat on the sofa and we twirled it whilst watching the telly. We couldn't leave it alone!

Now it's as much a part of early 1980s memories as Duran Duran, synth pop, hair gel and the ZX Spectrum.

In fact, it has become an icon of the entire decade.

Happy anniversary, Rubik's Cube! Read all our Cube data by clicking on the 'Rubik's Cube' label below.

8.4.20

Some 1980s Vibes: When Corona Was Fizzy Drinks, Frankie Wanted To Arm The Unemployed And West End Girls Prowled...

'West End Girl' - a 1987 poster by Athena. The spiky-haired foxtress has obviously been surprised on the fire escape. Wonder what she's been up to? Eurythmics's Annie Lennox, in the guise of her horrid middle class housewife in the 1987 'Beethoven (I love to listen to)' video, would no doubt, have been fascinated!

So, the 1980s.

BOOM! BANG! KER-BLAM! Love Thatcher/Reagan? Hate Thatcher/Reagan? Wanna be a yuppie? Wanna join Red Wedge and tear down the whole capitalist system? Wanna eat Nouvelle Cuisine? Wanna eat bubble and squeak portions from Bejam? Love the brand new House Music sensation? Prefer the brand new indie sensation that was The Smiths? Love to power dress? Love to wear deelyboppers and jelly shoes?

The 1980s seemed full to bursting with contrasting thingies. And now it all looks like a different planet. How things have changed! Take Covid-19. Back in the 1980s if you mentioned 'Corona' in England and Wales, a range of fizzy drinks immediately sprang to the forefront of most minds - not lockdowns and social distancing.

This Corona bottle dates from 1982, as indicated by the date on the promotional blurb on the back of the label. The label features the little bubbly thingie from the early 1980s 'Every bubble's passed its fizzical' TV ad, which was then current.


Environmentally friendly? 'Course we were - 10p deposit charged on the bottle. My favourite Corona drinks were orangeade and cherryade. Every Christmas we used to order a crate of assorted Corona drinks from the milkman.


Daily Mirror, 27 February, 1985:

Frankie goes to Downing Street

Leading pop stars have signed a "celebrity petition" to be handed in at 10 Downing Street tomorrow. It opposes Government plans to axe supplementary benefit for school leavers if they do not take part in the Youth Training Scheme. Holly Johnson and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Paul Weller, Madness, Smiley Culture, the Flying Pickets and Alison Moyet are among the entertainers whose names will be handed in. The Downing Street visit is part of a national rally and lobby of Parliament organised by the Youth Trade Union Rights Campaign.

The Youth Opportunities scheme had been introduced by the Callaghan Labour Government in 1978, in response to rapidly rising youth unemployment. A YOP provided work experience only, although in 1982 a training element was added. In 1983, it was replaced by the Youth Training Scheme (YTS), which, as the scheme's name suggests, was centred around training for skills.

So, what was the beef with school leavers having to go on a YTS scheme to qualify for Government money? Did they not want training? Well, looking back, the reasons I heard bandied about were that the Government was simply using the scheme to make the unemployment figures look smaller, and that minimum age school leavers had a right to expect a proper job.

This interested me as, as far back as the mid-1970s, the fact that graduates with degrees were finding it impossible to find work was being widely reported.

But in the 1980s, any initiative on the part of the Thatcher Governments was seen by many of us as a plot to do us down. Her first government's concentration on inflation rather than unemployment early in the decade had cast her out forever as far as I was concerned.

And, although I had a job and was completely unaffected, I still ranted my disapproval.

Maggie Thatcher would probably have dearly loved to give Frankie a spanky in the mid-1980s.

18.2.20

The '80s Archers Part Two: The Creation Of Lynda Snell

The 1980s saw Ambridge bidding farewell to several legendary old favourites - Doris Archer (1980), Aunt Laura (1985), Dan Archer (1986) and Walter Gabriel (1988) - but the decade saw the arrival of some new favourites, one of these being a certain Mrs Lynda Snell. Snobby Lynda was, at first sight (or rather on first hearing!) frankly quite unbearable - she would interfere! - but over the years moments of kindness and sensitivity and the enjoyability of her being a character we could at times love to hate, saw us listeners taking Lynda to our hearts.

Actress Carole Boyd was no stranger to BBC radio soap, having been in the Radio 2 saga Waggoners' Walk, as miserable Shirley Edwards, wife of the fiery Cliff. But Lynda was absolutely nothing like Shirley (she was rather common, old Shirl!) and I was very impressed at Miss Boyd's acting skills in playing two such widely differing characters so convincingly.

Interviewed a few years ago by the BBC, Miss Boyd revealed the origins of Mrs Snell...

'It was back in the mid-'80s, 1986, and the producer then was Liz Rigbey... she was new to the programme and she wanted, I think, to reflect the mid-'80s, the time of yuppies going off into the country and teaching people - TRYING to teach people - how to run their lives, etc. So, she invented this couple called the Snells and not a lot was known about them. I mean, we all auditioned, there was myself and probably about a dozen other actresses and the letter that came to say "This is what we want to do, this is the sort of people they are," was very uninformative really. It just said in the letter Robert is a thrusting computer whizz kid and Lynda's probably a doormat. And I thought, hmm, I don't want to be a doormat! But at the same time, of course, everyone was watching the television soaps, so we were all watching Dallas and Dynasty and Neighbours, I think, had come in, so suddenly there was a frenzy in the nation for more and more soap operas and I think people suddenly realised that we had our own home-grown one ticking away for years-  and the publicity that went with that - suddenly the interest rocketed as a spin-off from the television interest. 

'So I went into the audition thinking "I'm going to make her unpleasant" and the audition scene was between Eddie Grundy and this woman, unknown at the time, who pops up from behind a hedge to see Eddie doing something disgusting to a small furry creature, you know, disembowelling, something really countryish, and is horrified and takes him to task. And so I did it like that, bearing in mind that there was JR, who everyone loved to hate, and there was Alexis Carrington in Dynasty, who everyone loved to hate, and I thought "that's what we need in Ambridge", and they said, "Oh, you've made her unpleasant," and I said "Yes," and they said, "Oh, we quite like that," so that's how it happened. 

'And then her voice. Well obviously it's radio so there were no shoulder pads or big hair to reflect the period so I thought "Well, I'm going to make her really obnoxious-sounding and irritating," and I just feel that you only have to hear her voice and you just want to run a mile which is rather nice for the character.' 

And WHAT a character! Lynda Snell - Ambridge legend!

10.7.19

Enquiries... Suzy Lamplugh, Anglia Weatherman, World Wide Web...

I'm not getting to write on here as much I want, but I've had a few enquiries relating to the 1980s, so I'll do my best to answer. The first enquiry is regarding the London estate agent Suzy Lamplugh, who disappeared in July 1986, having apparently gone to meet a client called 'Mr Kipper':

David wrote:

Hi there! Great fan of your blog. I read your piece on Suzy Lamplugh and your own memories of the summer of 1986 with fascination as I was actually born in the July of that year! Regarding Suzy, it says on Wikipedia that her name was Susanna Lamplugh, minus the 'H' which you included. What was her name? And what do you think of the latest developments, the guy who thinks she didn't go to Shorrolds Road and the dig at Pershore?

Hello, David!

Thanks for writing. Susannah was named after the actress Susannah York and actively informed her colleagues on the QE2 that it was 'Susannah with an H' - so much so that her nickname amongst some of them was 'H'. But you know Wikipedia! I really hope the latest developments lead to closure for her family and friends. I'm uncertain about the Shorrolds Road theory. Certainly, a witness from 1986 claims that Suzy's company car was parked in Stevenage Road about five minutes after she'd left the Sturgis branch so it would certainly make sense that she hadn't been to Shorrolds Road. I really don't know. The fact that it's now claimed that she didn't take the Sturgis key to the Shorrolds Road property adds to the hope that perhaps things might finally become clear.

Link to the Suzy Lamplugh blog post - click HERE.

Greg says:

I really enjoyed your pieces on BC of Anglia Television (1980-2002 RIP). Do you remember the name of the main Anglia weatherman in the 1980s? He was quite a tall, thickset bloke as I recall, had a quiet sense of humour.

I think it would be David Brooks, Greg (see pic). He was at Anglia from 1972-1993. He was a nice presence at the station. I was watching his reaction to the failure of a weather screen to appear after he'd said 'let's look at tomorrow's weather,' or some such back in the day. When the manual board showing today's weather was slipped out (manually, of course!), the board beneath was completely blank. 'Good 'ere, innit?' quipped David, as the studio dissolved into laughter.

David was a huge golf fan and one of his greatest claims to fame was being struck by lightning on the Gog Magog course near Cambridge in 1979. As he said afterwards, next time he'd check the Anglia weather forecast before venturing out! He died of leukaemia in 2010.

Fran has written:

Saw all the excitement about the thirtieth anniversary of the invention of the World Wide Web back in March. 1989-2019! It's changed everything. On balance, would you say good or bad?

Definitely both, Fran! It's brought the world closer together but also exposed differences and maybe exacerbated a few! Personally, I'm allergic to SJWs online!

2.6.19

1989: Margaret Thatcher: 'We Have Become A Grandmother!'


It was sometimes said in the 1980s that Mrs Thatcher and the Queen did not see eye-to-eye and that Mrs T had her eye on the throne.

Outrageous! Ridiculous! Wasn't it?

Nobody knows what caused the Prime Minister to use the royal 'We' while announcing the birth of her first grandchild, but it caused a lot more talk.

There she was. Three general election wins. The Iron Lady. Had it all gone to her head?

And it turned out her first grandson was a Texan. Born In Dallas. Just like JR Ewing.

Strange days indeed...

From the Cambridge Evening News, 4/3/1989:

Thatcher Baby A Texan

Baby Michael Thatcher, the Prime Minister's first grandchild, will be an American citizen because he was born in Texas.

But he will be entitled to British citizenship by descent the Home Office confirmed.

Mrs Thatcher's son, Mark, and his American wife, Diane, became parents in Dallas on Tuesday.

Of course, despite her use of the royal 'We', Mrs Thatcher did not become Queen.

But I was feeling quite tired and jaded as this colourful, contrasting and often completely OTT decade roared towards its close and wouldn't have been a bit surprised if she had!

15.11.18

Usenet 1980 - Things I Didn't know...

Usenet archive extract, 1981.

I believe there's not a huge amount I don't know about the 1980s. At the time, through a haze of electronic music and Stella Artois, I was oblivious to a lot of it, but since then I've studied. However, I can still be surprised. I knew the first version of Microsoft Windows arrived in 1985, and that the World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, but I'd  never heard of Usenet, which was established in 1980, and was apparently a bit of a predecessor to today's Web forums. In fact, in 1980, nobody I knew had a computer or would have dreamt of buying one. I didn't even know anybody who bought a ZX80! But over in the States, the poor man's ARPANET took wing in 1980.

It was the brainchild of Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis, and initial participation was very small (expectedly in those days), but it grew.

I suppose, not to be unkind, it was a bit of a geeks' and nerds' valley at first, it must surely have been, and comparing its presentation and technical efficiency to today's World Wide Web would be a bit like comparing apples to oranges, but it's still interesting.

From the Web:

Usenet is a global network of servers on which all kinds of data are exchanged. In some ways it can be seen as the predecessor of modern day internet forums. It all started in 1980, when Usenet was introduced, giving users the possibility to exchange text messages and scientific articles. These text messages and scientific publications could be uploaded in several categories, called newsgroups, with each newsgroup covering a certain topic. 

It wasn't really the forerunner to the World Wide Web, but definitely a small marker on the (then unplanned) path towards it.



31.10.18

Happy Halloween - Remembering Grotbags The Witch...

Lovely singer and comedienne Carol Lee Scott was the most famous witch of the 1980s - enlivening many a kiddie's tea time with her spirited portrayal of that lovable but not terribly effectual green being called Grotbags.

THERE'S SOMEBODY AT THE DOOR!

Grotbag's made her debut in Emu's World with Rod Hull and his manic pet in January 1982. Rod Hull had written the show as one of the first of the output of the newly formed ITV company Central. He knew Carol who suggested the name 'Miss Grot' for the character. This had been her nickname - bestowed on her by the MD at Pontins where she had previously worked. Rod reworked that into Grotbags - and hey presto! Alakazamb! TV gained a vibrant new children's character.

Sadly, Carol, who was much-loved and not like her TV character at all, died last year. But Grotbags lives on. Like all great TV legends.


Wishing everyone a very happy Halloween - with lots of treats and (hopefully) no tricks!

11.8.18

This Morning Spoof: Richard, Judy And The Hair You'll Be Wearing Next Year...

Spoof magazine interview found in a pub in December 1989...

3 October 1988 was a grand day in the history of television. Nope, it wasn't the launch of Channel 4, breakfast TV, or Sky TV - those events occurred in 1982, 1983 and 1989 respectively.

No, think, mateyboots, think...

Can't think?

Oh well - 1988 gave us THIS MORNING with husband and wife presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, and it really was quite something. The 1980s saw UK television going all day and all night, something for everybody, but for years into the decade the mornings were so drop dead boring you could have wept. Picture it, you take a sickie, you're at home, luxuriating with an economy sized Wispa, and all you have to watch is schools programmes! I mean - PURLEASE!!!

All right, if you were lucky, you could slam in a video, but as we've already seen elsewhere on this site, the spread of VCRs was slow, so you probably didn't have the option.

Morning TV had been looking a little more hopeful since the launch of the BBC's daytime service in October 1986, but then, suddenly - BAM!! - the ITV schools programmes were accommodated on Channel 4 in 1987, and we got This Morning the following year, an all-sorts mix of human and celebrity stories, fashion, cookery, health - you name it!

The show was revolutionary - before that we'd had to wait until nearly lunchtime for even a glimmer of anything interesting, unless you counted the 10am repeat of yesterday's Neighbours.

And This Morning was also revolutionary in length. In the first instalment, Richard and Judy informed the audience that they were going to be on air for the next two hours!

This Morning was broadcast by Granada TV, live from the Albert Dock in Liverpool.

I liked it a lot... although maybe it seemed a little middle class, it wasn't as stuffy (or middle class) as some previous magazine-style shows, and I grew fond of Richard and Judy, cook Susan Brookes, weatherman Fred Talbot, agony aunt Denise Robertson, etc, etc, etc.

Richard and Judy, who had met back in the year of the Falklands and the deelyboppers - 1982 - soon became the darlings of daytime TV, so much so that many of us referred to the show as Richard & Judy.

By late 1989, This Morning was an institution.

And it was in December 1989, sitting, jaded after too much festive cheer, in a bar in Islington, that I found an alternative magazine staring up at me from the bar, and took a look.

And it contained a delicious spoof article on This Morning that made me chuckle. And still makes me chuckle to this day. It's a brilliant piece of tongue-in-cheek, razor sharp late 1980s humour, it struck a chord with me, and with apologies to Richard, Judy, and anybody else involved with This Morning back then, I reproduce it below.

And remember this is a SPOOF interview - Richard and Judy had nothing to do with it! Bless 'em!

GOOD MORNING

BREAKFAST TELEVISION

with RICHARD & JUDY

If you are a man between the ages of 20 and 70, or a woman between 18 and 35, you could be a morning television presenter.

JUDY: Believe me, it is hard work - introducing reports on knitting patterns, getting bread to rise properly, coffeetime interviews and soap debates.

RICHARD: But also true stories of love, humanity and courage that bring people closer together.

JUDY: That's right. It's taking the events of the day and presenting them nicely. It's knowing what to say when there is nothing to say, and wearing something nice.

RICHARD: No one ever said it would be easy.

JUDY: (LAUGHS) But seriously. The hard work has its advantages - your face is instantly recognisable, people let you go ahead of them in queues, and old men send you gifts in the mail. You and your public share a genuine warmth that is all too rare these days. I suppose more than anything, if you're a woman, is not to wiggle and pout when they point the camera at you.

RICHARD: That's right.

WHAT IS AN ITEM?

JUDY: It can be almost anything. Would you make some coffee, Richard? (RICHARD GETS UP AND MAKES EVERYONE COFFEE) An item can be almost anything! Like if a viewer suffers food poisoning from a poor quality tin of smoked salmon, that's news. If Margaret Thatcher gets a new hairstyle, that's news. If a soap star gets a divorce, that's news as well. The public has a right to know. Isn't that right, Richard?

RICHARD: Absolutely, Judy.

WHERE DO ITEMS COME FROM?

RICHARD: Most of the items come from the teletype machine...

JUDY: ... which is a neat black printing machine on our desk.

YOU BOTH USED TO BE REPORTERS, SO WHAT IS JOURNALISM?

RICHARD: Oh, errrr...

JUDY: We'll be right back after this break.

DO YOU GET TO TRAVEL?

JUDY: I sometimes do reports.... like recently I visited a school for the severely brain damaged diabetic children and we made a film. At first I was so worried that it wouldn't come out right, but they all proved to be really photogenic.

RICHARD: And it looked really good. (PAUSE) And we just thank god the 'twins' are healthy and normal.

TELL US ABOUT 'WARMTH'

JUDY: Undoubtedly the key to warmth is not to think about what you're reading from your autocue. I always imagine my viewers. I picture them writing one of those wonderful letters and I see their bright smiling faces.

RICHARD: I never knew that, Judy.

JUDY: (GLARES AT RICHARD) An information booklet accompanies this series...

WHAT ABOUT AD-LIB?

RICHARD: (LAUGHS) Well, this is when the autocue is not working...

JUDY: Or has been turned off. (BOTH LAUGH)

RICHARD: It is, of course, the most challenging time for a presenter.

JUDY: Like the other day, there was this story about handicapped children participating in their first annual wheelchair marathon, and the autocue suddenly stopped working, so I said "If you spend time with the handicapped...

RICHARD: That's right, (CONTINUING FOR JUDY) 'I think, well, their hopes and dreams become part of you.'

JUDY: (LONG PAUSE. DEEP BREATH. RUBS FINGERS ON THE BRIDGE OF HER NOSE) Let's take a short commercial break, but we'll be back with the sort of hair you'll be wearing next year.

TELL US ABOUT THE WEATHER

RICHARD: Fortunately, we don't have to do the weather.

JUDY: But we do have to talk with the Weather Personality. Always keep an eye on him.

RICHARD: Yes, if he loses weight or his skin clears up - he could be your next replacement.

JUDY: And remember that the weather personality makes the final impact on your public, so if he talks bad weather, interrupt him - "Rain, rain, rain. Don't you have anything good for us?"

RICHARD: Or, "Surely it's going to improve for the weekend?"

JUDY: But you've got to get the timing right - make sure the closing signature tune leaves him no time to say anything clever.

26.7.18

Birthday Club BC of Anglia Television - 1980 to 2002 - 22 Glorious Years... And A Reunion With Auntie Helen McDermott...


A signed... er.. pawed photo of BC in his late 1980s glory days.


Still staggering - even in black and white - a BC signed pic from 1982.

Happy, happy days of the 1980s! Uncle Michael Speake with BC and Auntie Helen McDermott in the Anglia TV studios in Norwich. BC is undergoing a bit of a spruce-up c.1982/1983 as he had got a bit grubby. Image was very important in those days. Auntie Helen's mascara suffers as a result. 


Uncle Michael, of course, became BC's official biographer in 1986 with the publication of 'BC and the Magic Book'. For some reason the book did not make the top of the year's best seller list, and some of us suspected jealousy and foul play within the ranks of those compiling the list. 


1985, and BC brings a touch of that certain sartorial something to the Birthday Club studio. Not for nothing are the 1980s remembered as the 'Style Decade'.


Boxing Day, 1988, and BC, seen here with a very bright and breezy Uncle Patrick Anthony, is seriously in need of an Alka-Seltzer.

How sad it was that June day in 2002 when it was announced that BC of Anglia Television's Birthday Club was to be retired in July, after twenty-two glorious years with the company. Since his arrival in 1980, he had become a legend in his own tea time. But a discreet online announcement on 22 June 2002 brought an end to those halcyon days:

Anglia spokesman Tom Walshe told the Eastern Daily Press newspaper: 'Anglia has decided that BC will be retired from next month owing to daytime schedule changes. The changes are in line with recently announced plans to give more prominence to regional programmes at peak times, and the time currently devoted to BC's Birthday Club will be allocated to extra regional news.

'BC has had a marvellous run on Anglia for 22 years, and we appreciate that many viewers will be sorry to see him go. But nothing is forever in television.'

Mr Walshe went on: 'Children's ITV has undergone many changes over the past two decades, and it has become increasingly difficult to accommodate BC within the schedule. Requests for birthday greetings have also fallen off markedly in recent times.'

'We can assure all his fans that BC will be given an honourable retirement and we know his memory will live on in the hearts and minds of parents and children all over the East of England.'

Stunned silence reigned across the East of England. Then, of course, came the hot tears, the denial, the relief grief.

A few years later, dear Auntie Helen, Helen McDermott, one of the station's presenters who had had the honour of working with BC right from the start, indeed had helped to draw him to the station in 1980, promising him perks like a limitless supply of lollipops and plenty of presenters to harass assist, sought him out and brought him briefly back to our screens. BC, it turned out, was still living in Norwich. He was living in a secret location because he didn't want to be mobbed. This was very wise. Me and my cousin Brian had been desperate to mob this celebrity of celebrities since 1985, when he was at the peak of his fame. And our desire had in no way lessened over the years.


Auntie Helen takes a puppet replica of BC out to meet a young fan in the 1980s. The real BC, of course, was usually studio-bound because of the ever-present threat of being mobbed - although he did have his own vehicle to attend some public events - BC4U.


BC had put on a bit of weight and Auntie Helen commented on his changed appearance - had he had a facelift, perhaps? But he still had the old magic. 

The reunion ended slightly acrimoniously as Auntie Helen discovered the somewhat fickle nature of our hero. Seems he was not oblivious to the charms of younger TV presenters. But that's what stardom does to people. Or leopards. Or bears. Or whatever he is.


My BC. I made this and based him on the BC who was so familiar to us in the 1980s, using a c.1983 screen capture for the model. From around the late 1980s, BC underwent several cosmetic changes - but denies surgery. If you would like to know how I made him then you are almost as sad as I am. My reasons were simple. I wanted my own BC that I could mob at home.

Anyway, enjoy our original tribute to this star of stars here.