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23.5.18

Coronation Street 1987 - And 1989... Phyllis Pearce The Material Girl And The New Side To The Street...

If only soaps were still like they were in Phyllis's day...


Faced with entirely uninterested Mr Sugden, Phyllis was undaunted. Come on, Percy, pucker up!

Our Phyllis was no quitter. She pursued her man for over a decade.

We've enjoyed a few glimpses of ITV 3's Classic Coronation Street recently, which has been reliving each episode of the Street from 1986 onwards. The strand has just reached 1989, which promises to be a corking year with the Alan Bradley story, the death of Brian Tilsley, Jack and Vera Duckworth's stone cladding, and the building of a whole new side of the Street as Baldwin's factory and the community centre are demolished and the new houses, shops and industrial units go up.

The production team teased us with blink-and-you'd-miss-them glimpses of the new development as time went on - and below we see what would become Audrey's hairdressing salon in the episode broadcast on 11 December 1989.


Also in that episode was a great favourite of ours - the legendary Phyllis Pearce, played by the legendary Jill Summers. What a fantastic blue rinser Phyllis was - never giving up on getting Percy Sugden to appreciate her charms, always ready with advice, a bit sad about the loss of her salad days, but still a very positive and young-at-heart character.

We loved her.

We have a feeling Phyllis would be as disappointed in modern day soaps, with their constant serial killers, explosions and excessive violence, as we are.


Phyllis did enjoy the occasional grumble about the youth of the day, but at heart she was very much a modern girl of the 1980s - in fact a material girl, and she and Alf Roberts's shopping-loving wife Audrey (Sue Nicholls) were happy to present their credentials on the 1987 TV show 'The Funny Side', as backing 'singers' for Bucks Fizz star Cheryl Baker's performance of the Madonna hit.

Cos the boy with the cold hard cash is always Mr Right...

Flippin' 'eck - there's Judith Jacobs - Carmel from Walford - showing unexpected musical talent and proving that even the EastEnders could have fun in 1987...

Good grief, and here's Archie Brooks from Emmerdale Farm, James Wilmot Brown from EastEnders, and Bobby Grant and Matty Nolan from Brookside getting in on the act!

And our Cheryl's Mr Right in those days of success-seeking glitz and glamour? Kevin Kennedy's Curly Watts, of course! Who else!

Who needs Pepsi and Shirlie?

11.5.18

1987 - The Colbys, Fallon, And A Flying Saucer

We've written about Fallon and the flying saucer before, but the subject returns to our minds periodically...

Poor old Fallon. Just what was it with her? There she was in Dynasty, a sort of female equivalent of Falcon Crest's Lance Cumson, a spoilt rich playgirl, played by Pamela Sue Martin. This '80s role shocked us as we were used to Pamela Sue as good old Nancy Drew in the '70s revival of the tales of that worthy young mystery investigator. Hurrah for Nancy!

But thoroughly '80s Fallon was not into investigating mysteries. Oh no. She was into investigating men. If you know wot I mean (nudge, nudge!).

But then Fallon morphed into actress Emma Samms - only Emma Samms's Fallon thought she was Randall Adams and was altogether a sweeter girly than before, even when she finally discovered she was really Fallon.

If you know wot I mean. If you've lost the plot, don't worry - so had the writers...

By then Randall/Fallon had moved on from Denver and the Carringtons to California and the Colbys.

Fallon gets a dislocated shoulder pad on spotting the craft from another galaxy.

EEEK!!!

Of course, The Colbys, the even-richer-than-rich Dynasty spin-off wasn't doing that well. But was a flying saucer really necessary? 

In her great book Soap Box (1988), journalist Hilary Kingsley gave some insights into why it happened:

Its writer, Robert Pollock, told me later that the idea had been that of co-producer Richard Shapiro. 'Apparently Richard had had a dream. He was tremendously excited. At the time the novel Communion was a smash hit. The supernatural was being discussed over dinner-parties everywhere. I couldn't discourage him. I was very worried about our writing ourselves into a corner. How would we get Fallon back? Richard said: "We'll worry about that next season." The scene was not received with enormous enthusiasm, as I expected. It will never be done again.'

So, that was it. How a legendary loopy 1980s American soap storyline came about. And the end of The Colbys.

Of course, Fallon was back on Earth in time for the next season of Dynasty.

Ms Kingsley in 1988 again:

When Fallon and Jeff returned to 'Dynasty' for the series this year, Fallon's time was explained as another of her 'turns', an out-of-body experience. The aliens' spacecraft smelt of cinnamon, she said. 'Were they baking?' Jeff asked. The poor man's disbelief became grounds for another divorce.

I don't believe that 'out-of-body' tripe. Nope. Viewers saw the flying saucer too, and the episode wasn't shot as if from Fallon's point of view (as it should have been if she was in a delusional state), so I reckon she was definitely whooshed away by ET's. You never know wot's gonna happen on dark nights like that, do you?

Such auspicious moments in our cultural history often lead to the question: 'Where were you when...?' Well, when Fallon got whipped away by the aliens I was in the bath, preparing for another night of wild excess at Tracy's Nite Spot.

Read all about it here.

I went to Tracy's Nite Spot. Fallon went...?




30.4.18

Mr Dog - Specially Prepared Because Some Dogs Are Called Cesar...

Anybody remember Mr Dog dog food? Well, if you remember the 1980s you probably do. The dear little tins were packed full of goodness your doggy couldn't get from fresh meat alone, and specially made to care for a small dog's needs. At first. Then Mr Dog was specially made because some dogs are special. Then out went Mr Dog in 1989 and it was suddenly made because some dogs are called Cesar. Apparently.

C
omedian Eddie Izzard posed the question 'why did Mr Dog change its name?' in recent years. Well, while the scenario he painted of a late night meeting at Mr Dog HQ with bonkers late night thought processes running rampant was quite amusing, the real reason was simply to bring it into line with its European brand name.

Anyway, for our screen caps we've picked some lovely pics from an early Mr Dog ad - from 1982 - and two later ads from 1985 and 1987.

Aw, cute, eh?


A new decade and a new canine treat! And the first thing any self respecting seller must do is flog the goods to the punter. Pedigree Pet foods, purveyor of our canine culinary delight, knew this full well so as the nosh hit the supermarket shelves, the first two Mr Dog TV ads went on air. They were 'King Charles Spaniel' and 'Poodle'. Both date from 1980 and more ads then spanned the rest of the decade. A few years in, the ads gained a very twee... er... cute jingle, which is now etched on my brain.


Mr Dog was famous. Even if you didn't own a dog, you couldn't fail to be aware of the ads.

For myself and certain people I knew Mr Dog also achieved a certain sinister significance as the 1980s progressed.

I recall a friend's mother having a nervous breakdown in the mid-1980s. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where she briefly believed that Mr Dog was spying on her and listening to every word she said.

Honestly.

Spied on by dog food? Or was there more to it? Just who was Mr Dog? I was twenty years old, with an over-active imagination, and although I appreciated the gravity of my friend's Mum's illness, on the quiet my thoughts conjured up visions of a sinister cigar smoking poodle, surrounded by yappy henchdogs. My fantasy poodle was the mutt who might be behind the Mr Dog empire, Mr Dog himself in fact, a mutt of immense of power.

Don't mess with Mr Dog...

My friend's Mum made a full recovery and could only say afterwards that the Mr Dog delusion came about simply because she'd seen too many of the ads.

Advertising is a mighty powerful tool - sometimes with very unforeseen results...


Cute little tins, weren't they?

On to 1985 and yappie yuppie Mr Dog is having beef for din-dins.

And he loves you for it because it's so expensive and 'special'. Mercenary little git.

Mr Dog was, of course, mentioned in Domesday. No, not the 1086 version, but the 1986 BBC 'snapshot' of the UK - the BBC's very first digital project.

Eleven-year-old Joanna Hall had this to say:

My family and I own 2 cats and one   
dog. Our dog is a female, black and  
white
Jack Russell terrier called    
Tinker. She is 13 years old, two years
younger than my older sister, Becky. 
Tinker gets fed "Mr. Dog" dog food at 
the time when I have my tea (6pm.).  
She has a plentiful supply of water. 
I take her on walks as often as I can.
I like taking her down the lane to   
Brompton on her lead, but she prefers
going down the field behind our house.
Tinker understands most commands, like
"stay, walkies" and sometimes "sit!".
She usually sleeps on a chair in the 
kitchen. She is a lovable dog and    
doesn't bite. She is rarely naughty  
except when she eats the cats' food. 
The
two cats are twins and can be told
apart by their different coloured noses:    
one is black, the other is pink.                                


Mr Dog wakes up from a nice snooze in 1987...

... and gets stuck in...

... and with Mr Dog then available in a new larger size, he could indulge in a little conspicuous consumption. Just watch out for your carpets and soft furnishings afterwards.

1989 - FAREWELL, MR DOG! BLUB!!!

26.4.18

Home Decor In The 1980s And Who painted Puss?

Back in the 1980s a change began to sweep over working class homes. Before that decade, we poor types had been happy to mix-and-match our furnishings and décor. There would be that old couch passed down by Aunt Lil - probably dating back to the 1950s (the springs were going but it still served), Great Nana's flying swallows from the 1940s, that nice bit of carpet Mr Sims had chucked out (quite new as well!), some out-of-date but still serviceable bright yellow 1960s curtains, Great Aunt Gemma's religious text - dating back to a 1920s seed catalogue, some garish modern wallpaper - dreamt up in a nightmare by some late 1960s hippie, and so on. It clashed. But we didn't see our rooms as a whole.

We loved Great Nana's swallows and they may not have gone with the modern smoked glass-topped coffee table (a Christmas present from Auntie Lizzie, who'd only had it three years) but then neither went with cousin Sue's cushion covers. In fact, nothing went with cousin Sue's cushion covers. Still, we didn't care. Our rooms often contained a 1950s or 1960s print on the wall too - sad eyed kiddies and clowns and so on by the likes of Barry Leighton Jones or Audrey Dallas Simpson. These were usually board prints with cheap plastic frames.

Stylistically, the rooms were often very discordant - but we didn't think like that.

Things were displayed or used because they were of sentimental value or because we thought they were 'real nice' or  because we couldn't afford new and somebody we knew was chucking something out that wasn't totally knackered. If only just.

But then came the 1980s.

The mid-1980s presented the working classes with a credit boom and LIFESTYLE choices. What sort of clothes best portrayed who YOU were? Were YOU trendy? Futuristic? Power dressing? Casual? Classic? What did your home say about YOU? Should your home be futuristic? Rustic? Trendy? Townie? Minimalist? Industrial?

And so out went out the strange assortment of furnishings we'd assembled over the previous decades and in came our very own distinctive 'look'. Yes, this was about YOU and who YOU were and about making a statement to the world about YOU.

The transition was slow and wasn't always in the best possible taste, particularly at first, but by the end of the 1980s my very working class family's homes were definitely becoming less of a hotchpotch and more black ash and vertical blinds (or country cottage or whatever) than they had been before.


1985, Argos catalogue... Graffiti your furniture... make it really YOU!


A study area? Darling, how could we do without one?


Index catalogue, only now it's 1989. OOOH!

I was an '80s trendy person and when, in 1987, I moved into a shared flat, I was eager to furnish the communal areas with my flatmate. I went to a nice posh shop and bought a nice posh (and very 1980s) clock for the kitchen and was stunned when my flatmate went out to a jumble sale at the local United Reformed Church and bought back the kitten picture pictured at the top of this post. She'd paid 10p.


My beautiful 1987 wall clock! Isn't it great? And still keeps perfect time!

Now, my flatmate seemed quite posh to me. Her parents had started buying their council house in the late 1960s (you could where I lived) when she was a tiny tot and she affected an air of languid middle classness. So, what the hell was she doing? Here was me, fresh off a council sink estate, living in the throes of the latter years of the Style Decade and very 'with it', and here she was, from a home owning family, doing a 'dead common' pick-n-mix job on our flat like it was 1983 or something.

My flatmate - I'll call her Sharon - hadn't bought the print because it was 1960s and she had enthusiasm for that era. Those sort of prints still adorned many a fogey relative's living room wall back in the 1980s and hadn't any appeal as retro pieces to trendy young people.

No, Sharon had bought it because she thought the kitten was 'sweet'.

The picture was one of those Audrey Dallas Simpson style things, delicately stained with nicotine, and the kitten portrayed looked as miserable as sin. And there was no way I wanted it rubbing shoulders with my dead posh modern clock in the kitchen/living room of the flat.

I thought quickly. I didn't want to offend Sharon by calling out her lousy taste, so I said: 'What a great picture! It will go great with the green wallpaper in the hall!' And so there it was hung.

And it stared. Miserably. Each day, its eyes clocking me out of the flat as I left for work and back in as I came home. Finally, when we left the flat, Sharon gave me the picture. I didn't want to offend, so cooed delightedly over it, and hung it in my new hall so that Sharon would see it when she visited.


The picture still has its original 1987 10p jumble sale price ticket on the back.

And so it continued to clock me out as I left my new house each day - and back in again. As at the flat, I found those solemn eyes meeting mine each time I left or entered.

In recent years, the picture has become increasingly shabby and faded. I took it down. And then began to feel a profound sense of unease each day as I left the house or entered.

Could it possibly be the lack of those solemn eyes, clocking me in and out?

After thirty years, had I become addicted to them?

The sense of something lacking continued and in the end I scanned and brightened the picture and put a copy up in the hall.

The eyes were back.

And so was my sense of wellbeing.

Kitty had entered the second of its nine lives.

The original board print with plastic frame originated from the 1960s, and lately I've wondered who painted it? It looks very Dallas Simpson to me, but does anybody know?

I call it the '51c Cat', because that was the number of our old flat.

Funnily enough, in my middle age, I've started mixing-n-matching again.

The 51c Cat happily resides in the same hallway as my 1980s wall clock...

And both go so well with my pink woodchip oh-so-1980s hall wallpaper...


Not to mention my Adam Ant mirror...

Back to 1987, and Sharon had really liked my ultra modern 1980s kitchen clock. So she went out and bought a chopping board with a 'country kitchen' design to display on the worktop - a past times greengrocer's shop complete with old money price tags and old style woman and boy. There was nothing wrong with the design. I quite liked it. But it clashed liked nobody's business with the clock. Despite Sharon's parents buying their council house and her refusal to drop her aitches, the woman was dead common. She had no sense of style and interior design coordination at all.

I despaired. 

And gave it all up as a hopeless job. Especially when another flatmate arrived and immediately made her contribution to the décor. She  blue-tacked a yucky brown and cream horse's head tea towel to the pantry door.


Sharon's chopping board. Of course, this was the 1980s, so it was being flogged as a 'very collectable chopping board' (sigh).



25.4.18

Blind Date - Straight Talking, Non-PC - Beautiful '80s TV!

You know, nowadays we're scared of opening our mouths in case the words we're about to use aren't politically correct. You see, political correctness has become a very strange thing indeed since we first stumbled upon it circa 1987 - when it seemed somewhat droll.

I've never thought that over-analysing words is a good idea, because it doesn't really make people good or bad or indifferent. So easy to play the PC game while secretly being a nasty bit of work. In fact, being PC seems right priggish to us, love, and when it comes to earnest young girls or guys lecturing their grandparents and telling them not to use a particular word because it's not 'PC', we shudder to think what our grandparents would have thought if we'd tried it. And dread to think of what they'd have done even more. A good clump round the ear 'ole would have been the least of it.
So it's nice to watch good basic entertainment from the 1980s with clear communication.

We've been back in 1986, having a lorra lorra laffs with our Cilla and the Blind Date contestants. Remember Blind Date, which brightened up our early Saturday evenings before we went out to get... er... slightly inebriated?

It was a laff partly because a lot of the contestants had absolutely no fashion sense. Look at the three gents below. I mean, what do No 1 and No 3 look like? Number 1 looks all set to go out and trim his hedge and No 3 looks set for a naff day's junior clerking in the back office of Cloggins and Co, Boiler Specialists.

Only Contestant No 2 shows any sense of style and occasion. The shoulder pads. The bouffant mullet. The lovely shirt. The colourful shoes. The pushed up jacket sleeves.

The young lady's question for this gent was: ' 'ow would you react if I smashed your car on the first day you 'ad it?'

And the gent's reply?

'I'd kill yer.'

A simple, direct reply, and very amusing in the viewing and hearing.

The 21st Century equivalent (if the guy didn't want to leave himself open to ridiculous accusations of misogyny or anger management problems) would probably be 'I wouldn't be happy at all!'

Our verbalisations have become so deodorised it's hard to have a giggle any more. 


20.4.18

Did Margaret Thatcher Influence The Shoulder Pads Trend? Er, No, Actually...

Phil writes to say:

I've been reading on line that Margaret Thatcher, UK Prime Minister from May 1979 to November 1990, influenced the trend for huge shoulder pads. Did she? Was she the original power dresser?

No, Phil. Piffle and bunk on-line we're afraid.

Power dressing was a trend Margaret Thatcher followed in the 1980s, but did not help to create. The jacket she wore after her first general election win in May 1979 illustrates this. It is simply a neatly tailored blue jacket, with totally non-excessive shoulders. It was a boring garment in 1979 - and would even have been boring in 1969. As the 1980s wore on, Thatcher simply adopted the fashion of that time. Compare her neatly tailored and somewhat timeless look of 1979 (top) and her whopper shoulders of 1987 (bottom) for details.

Cynthia Crawford, Thatcher's personal assistant who was responsible for seeing she was smartly dressed and groomed, stated in 2013:

'In 1987 she was going to Russia for the first time and I had seen a wonderful coat in Aquascutum's window and I went to get it. A lot of her clothes up until that time had been homemade by a lady. She made all those dresses and blouses with bows and things. Mrs Thatcher went to Russia and she looked absolutely fabulous. I said to her: "If you are going to fight an election in June, why don't we ask Aquascutum to make you up some working suits." She agreed, so we ordered these suits. It was when the power shoulders were in and it just revolutionised her. She looked fantastic. She enjoyed all the new outfits and got away from the dresses. She never wears trousers, not even today. She always likes formal clothes, even at home. She hasn't got a lot of casual clothes.'

Thatcher was a follower, not an innovator, as far as fashion was concerned. I don't recall anybody wanting to look like her. The handbag, for a start, was so naff!



3.4.18

"Plain Jane Superbrain" - Annie Jones Returns To Neighbours...

Annie Jones as Jane Harris in an Australian 1989 preview of an upcoming Neighbours episode. Wow! Those shoulder pads!

We don't have a TV service. Having decided that the BBC wasn't worth the licence fee years ago and that we resented being forced to pay for it, we gave up the telly. Well, not exactly. We watch DVDs. Seldom do we feel the need to venture beyond the early 1990s with our choice of viewing though.

As Big Brother and Beavis and Butthead came in, we went out.

Not that we're snobs. No, lovey, not us. We just thought that '90s TV grew more and more boring. Our TV tastes were wide and varied in the 1980s. Film on 4? Yum! The Beiderbecke Trilogy? Oh yes! Edge of Darkness? Ooh!

But we liked the soapy side too - we watched Crossroads to the end. And something else we enjoyed greatly was Neighbours, the Australian soap featuring Des, Daphne, Mrs Mangel, Scott and Charlene, Mike Young, Harold Bishop, Madge Ramsay, and 'Plain Jane Superbrain' - AKA Jane Harris, granddaughter of Mrs M.

Jane could easily have been a makeweight character - she had the old chestnut storyline of the ugly duckling becoming a swan bestowed on her - but Annie Jones invested Jane with a likeable warmth and sincerity. And we took the character to our hearts. She wasn't feisty and fascinating like Charlene. She was simply a nice young woman. But it was niceness without being boring.

Of course, Jane suffered heartache. Her on-off relationship with Mike Young was doomed, and a brief romance with an older man was even shorter. Then Jane fell for widower Des Clarke. And that wasn't to be either.

Finally, in 1989, Jane left for England, where newly-married Mrs Mangel had gone to live. Mrs M was ill. Jane went to be with her.

Intriguingly, Annie Jones suggested some of the storyline ideas for Jane's return to the Neighbours production team.

Jane, gifted academically and a sought after fashion model for a time, has spent the last twenty-nine years looking after Mrs Mangel. And some of Nan's ways have rubbed off on her.

We saw some Neighbours last year while on holiday in Cromer and were delighted to see Mrs Mangel's portrait, painted by Helen Daniels in 1987, featured in the plot.

Caused a lot of trouble did that portrait.

We wonder if its re-emergence could have something to do with Jane's return to Erinsborough? After all, Mrs Mangel would hardly be pleased to have discovered it was now on display at Lassiter's...

Whatever the reason for Jane's Ramsay Street comeback, our best wishes to Annie Jones. The goings-on in mid-to-late 1980s Erinsborough gave us much viewing pleasure, and Jane Harris was an essential part of the Neighbours brew. Our feelings towards the character are wrapped in great swathes of warmth and nostalgia.

We'll definitely be popping round to OUR neighbours' to see Annie's return episode.


6.2.18

The Brand New "More Is More" 1980s Quiz...

Right! Cocktail glass at the ready... it's time for our brand new "More Is More" 1980s Quiz...

1) This was twisted by the pool - and everywhere else. It was Toy of the Year in 1980 and 1981. What was it?

2) What was Paws Inc, founded in 1981?

3) "Gissa Job!" We were in Left Wing bleeding hearts territory with this TV series. What was it? And which character had the catchphrase?

4) The 1982 opening night included Walter. What am I talking about?

5) Boy and toy. A wonderful American comic strip pairing which made its US debut in 1985.

6) Fill in the ad jingle lyrics gap: "You can't get better than a Quik Fit fitter - we're the boys to ___!"

7) Can you name the 1980s pop song from the lyrics - without Googling? Go for it! Here we are: "Your name is Dracula..."

8) Big Al and Little Norm - which TV series did they make their debut in?

9) When Fallon lost her memory in Dynasty, what did she call herself?

10) The incredibly young and unseeded Wimbledon champion of 1985.

11) Who did Rik Mayall play in The Young Ones?

12) Where were the 1980 Olympics held?

13) A young woman became a Page Three pin-up and (briefly) a pop star. Who was she?

14) Paul and Annabelle were characters in which soap opera?

15) Who was the female member of The Thompson Twins?

16) When Henry Nunn returned to his home town, he found things had changed tremendously. Can you name the sitcom?

17) This children's animated TV series, which ran from 1985-1989, had a title that suggested feline bad weather.

18) Still with children's TV, is this statement true or false? 'Henry only appeared occasionally in Henry's Cat'.

19) Which politician said that his father got on his bike and looked for work?

20) Big Bang on the Stock Exchange - which year?

21) Margaret Thatcher won two General Elections in the 1980s. Name the years.

22) Two men met for the first time in August 1981, and later formed the Pet Shop Boys. Name them.

23) Which magazine published the following answer to a non-existent quiz question? 'Roland Orzabal and a kangaroo'.

24) Who invented Tetris?

25) Who was said to have eaten a hamster in 1986?

26) In which year did the Apple Mac first appear?


27) Lesbian activists invaded the BBC Newsroom in which year?

28) In which TV series would you have found Mr Bronson in the mid-to-late 1980s?

29) Ferris Bueller had what in 1986?

30) Henry the vacuum cleaner arrived in which year?

31) "Beefy" played which sport?

32) Which 1980s year had to be shortened?

33) Edd the Duck was always absent from the Children's BBC Broom Cupboard one day a week. Where did he go?

34) Eurythmics formed in 1980. Who were they?

35) Who was Gilbert the alien's female co-presenter on Get Fresh and Gilbert's Fridge?


ANSWERS: 1) Rubik's Cube 2) The Garfield character merchandising company 3) Boys from the Blackstuff; Yosser Hughes 4) Channel 4 5) Calvin and Hobbes 6)  "... trust!" 7) Once Bitten Twice Shy, Vesta Williams 8) The Beiderbecke Affair 9) Randall Adams 10) Boris Becker 11) Rick 12) Moscow 13) Samantha Fox 14) Brookside 15) Alannah Currie 16) Sorry, I'm A Stranger Here Myself 17) ThunderCats 18) False - he never appeared 19) Norman Tebbit 20) 1986 21) 1983 and 1987 22) Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe 23) Smash Hits 24) Alexey Pajitnov 25) Freddie Starr 26) 1984 27) 1988 28) Grange Hill 29) A day off 30) 1981 31) Cricket (Ian Botham) 32) 1987 - by one second to bring it in line with the Gregorian Calendar 33) Cubs 34) Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart 35) Charlotte Hindle

How did you rate?

1-9: Not very 'OK Yah, Down The Wine Bar!' 10-19: Oh globits! 20-29: Very much a body-popper! 30-35: Stop the clock! You win the cheque AND the Treasure Hunt board game! (Not really, we don't give prizes 'ere, mateyboots, but the thought's there.)



Suzy Lamplugh - And Some Personal Recollections Of The Summer of 1986...




I've just read The Suzy Lamplugh Story by Andrew Stephen - and what a fascinating read it was, though sadly leading to no conclusion of a mystery news of which spread outwards from the Sturgis estate agency branch in Fulham, London, to the Lamplugh family in East Sheen, Susannah's friends, and the nation.

Sturgis Estate Agents, 654, Fulham Road, 1986. Suzy began work there as a negotiator in early 1985.


The summer of 1986 is one I will never forget. It was a time of yuppies, big/bizarre hair, the Pet Shop Boys and Opportunities, a time of Power Dressing, of great friendships, parties - and me landing my own house in August (rented cheaply and unexpectedly and a boon to a twenty-one year old who wanted to party). It was a different world.

In June 1986 I went to London for a weekend with friends. A feature of the weekend was a disco on a boat on the Thames. And, as ever, I was not impressed with London. The banks of the Thames as we chugged along often looked like a derelict nightmare to me. I recall seeing a high rise office block, with just one light on high in the building. Who forgot to switch their light off? I wondered. I had always found the capital to be a seedy hole, and though it was interesting to see protesters campaigning for the release of Nelson Mandela with their WE'RE HERE TO STOP! banners, speakers at Hyde Park Corner, and Petty Coat Lane Market, I found myself glad to get away again on this occasion.

'I always enjoy a visit to London,' one of my friends commented as we roared out of the grimy city into what seemed to me like the real world again. 'It always reminds me of the depths mankind can sink to!'

London was not somewhere I often visited, not somewhere I identified with, and I confess that the mystery of Suzy Lamplugh as it unravelled in the newspapers and on the TV just over a month later did not interest me much.

People disappeared. It happened. It always had. I remember well the disappearance of fifteen-year-old Martin Allen in London in 1979 - never to be seen again. He'd only been a year older than me at the time. The tragedy had particularly resonated with me for that reason. And yet life went on.

1986 was a lovely summer. The sun shone. The air was vibrant, and full of the smells of expensive perfume and aftershave, of alcohol and flowers.

It wasn't that I was uncaring about the events unfolding in the lives of the Lamplugh family. It was just that it was all so far away and I was immersed in my own life, young and free and happy.

And, after an unhappy childhood, I was making up for lost time, finding out about myself and life. I was living at a frantic pace.

According to The Suzy Lamplugh Story, 'Suze', as she was often known to those closest to her, although not subject to an unhappy childhood, had been doing something similar. From the time she joined the QE2 crew as a Steiner beautician in 1982, her life had opened up in entirely new ways, and it seems not all of these ways would have met with the approval of the folks back home.

I know the feeling. My mother and step-father would have had a blue fit if they'd known certain details of my life after I left home - and I think it's common for a lot of young people.

Less than three weeks after the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh, news came which focussed my attention fully elsewhere. A friend of mine committed suicide. The poor guy was the same age as me, and had suffered a nervous breakdown not long before. Difficulties in gaining access to his baby son led him to kill himself in his car, via carbon monoxide poisoning. Twenty one. So young. I was devastated.

And I blamed myself for not having been in touch with him more.

The summer of 1986 was oh-so-colourful, oh-so-vibrant, oh-so-sweet... oh-so-bitter.

Looking back, I see it as a time when I felt more alive, riding a roller coaster of emotions, than I ever have before - or since.

So, back to Suzy. What happened?

Susannah Lamplugh was dependable, caring and upwardly mobile. She came from a middle class family, but she was keen to 'better' herself, once asking her mother if she should marry for love or money? She organised family events, made the family Christmas puddings, made some of her own dresses, was willing to give up days off work to help friends.

A former employer described her as caring, good with her colleagues, and as someone who always thought the best of others.

She enjoyed swimming, wind surfing, skiing, parties, restaurants, night clubs and wine bars. Suzy was dyslexic, but with the help of her father and private tutors worked hard to keep up with her peer group at school.

She shared her flat with a male friend - on a purely platonic basis - but it seemed had a number of boyfriends in her short life. The problem, it later transpired, according to The Suzy Lamplugh Story, was her urge to keep some of what went on secret.

Of course, she didn't want to court her family and friends' disapproval, she was in with the well-heeled 'Putney Set' and aspired to a 'Sloaney', yuppie lifestyle - she was a regular at such trendy hang-outs as the Crocodile Tears Wine Bar, which was handy for her work in Fulham Road, and Tokyo Joe's Nightclub in Piccadilly.

But, in living life full throttle, Suzy was to leave behind unanswered questions. There was absolutely no reason why she shouldn't have a private life - and she wasn't guilty of any wrongdoings. But, in the light of what was to happen, difficulties would arise for those investigating.

A matchbook cover from the Crocodile Tears Wine Bar - one of many wine bars which catered to the booming yuppie/aspiring yuppie trade in London in the 1980s - and anybody else with a bit of brass.


Crocodile Tears wine bar clipping from a 1983 review of Fulham Road eateries and boozeries from Felix, the newspaper of the Imperial College Students' Union. Chicken Kiev! I don't think I even knew what a Chicken Kiev was in 1983!

On the bright summer morning of 28 July, 1986, Suzy joined her colleagues at the Sturgis Estate Agents branch in Fulham Road in seemingly very good spirits. She was concerned that her cheque book, pocket diary and a postcard had been lost, and cancelled the cheques by phoning her bank. The police then contacted her to tell her that the items had been found at a local pub she had visited recently, and she phoned the establishment, arranging to pick them up at 6pm. After an absolutely normal morning, including a 'ciggie' with some of her colleagues in the back of the premises (oh, those days of smoking indoors!), Suzy left to go to nearby Shorrolds Road to show a prospective buyer, apparently called Mr Kipper, the Sturgis property for sale at No 37 at around 12.40.


And then she vanished.

Suzy's work diary - showing the fateful appointment: 12.45 Mr Kipper 37, Shorrolds O/S - 'O/S' stood for 'outside' - meaning that Suzy was to meet her client outside the property - and the word 'Shorrolds' was enough without 'Road' to identify the property.

Later in the day, Mark Gurdon, Susannah's boss at Sturgis, concerned by her failure to return from seeing Mr Kipper at Shorrolds Road, contacted the Lamplugh family home and then the police.

She wasn't at her parents. She wasn't at Shorrolds Road. She wasn't at her flat. Her friends hadn't seen her.

So, where was she?

Suzy's company car - a white Ford Fiesta - was discovered in Stevenage Road, near the River Thames, where another property was up for sale through Sturgis.

The car was parked slightly askew from the pavement and overlapping a garage door by about eighteen inches. It seemed to have been parked in a hurry.

Her purse was in the map rack. Her straw hat in the back. But there was no sign of Suzy. The handbrake was off. The driver's door was unlocked but the passenger door locked, the driving seat positioned for a taller driver. So, had someone other than Suzy driven there alone?

And just when had the car arrived there? According to two local women, it had been there shortly after Suzy left Sturgis - leaving no time for her to go to Shorrolds Road.

Suzy's Sturgis company car in situ at Stevenage Road.

Two workmen laying pipes nearby in Stevenage Road had noticed nothing unusual during the day - no raised voices, nothing at all. The car had been parked without being noticed.

A woman reported seeing a man and woman in the road - the man was smartly dressed and the woman fitted the description of Suzy.

But what of Shorrolds Road?

Witnesses said that a woman answering Suzy's description and a very smart man with 'swept back dark hair' had been seen outside the property in Shorrolds Road around the time of the 'Mr Kipper' appointment. The witnesses were puzzled however as the woman's hair appeared lighter in colour than Suzy's. This was explained by the fact that Suzy had had blonde streaks applied (a popular fashion at the time) shortly before the 28th July. The fact that the witnesses mentioned the lighter hair shade added weight to the notion that they had actually seen Suzy.

There were also witnesses to other odd things in Shorrolds Road - including a double parked white Ford Fiesta, and another white Ford Fiesta parked nearby with, perhaps, somebody inside it, an old dark blue BMW, and one witness reported a dark saloon car not long after 1pm, with two men inside, sitting motionless, unspeaking, staring directly ahead...

The Sturgis property for sale in Stevenage Road in 1986.

It seemed that Suzy might have been seen in Bishops Park with a man - lying on the grass with a bottle of champagne - and one witness stated that the man seen at Shorrolds Road was carrying a bottle of champagne too. It was thought to have had a red, white and blue ribbon around the neck - which had been part of a promotion by the Peter Dominic chain to commemorate the recent wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. Other wine sellers may have had similar promotions.

Had Suzy been seen driving in her own car with a man later that afternoon? A friend thought so. The police sifted through various 'sightings' - there was an avalanche of information coming in - and tried to sort the chaff from the grain. it seems that some probable sightings which came to the fore years later were not followed up, despite some of them being reported at the time.

A van driver said he had to swerve and hit the kerb to avoid a white Ford Fiesta flying towards him. He reported seeing a 'striking blonde' at the wheel, arguing with a man in a suit.

A blonde woman was seen arguing with a man in a dark BMW or Mercedes, constantly sounding its horn, at around 1.50pm. A jogger, leaving Bishops Park, reported that - and that the woman in the car stared at him as they passed.

Police reconstruction of Suzy Lamplugh's meeting with Mr Kipper outside 37, Shorrolds Road in 1986.

Suzy's friend and lodger told the police that a couple of months before her disappearance she had told him she had been troubled by some strange phone calls - but he knew nothing more.

Other friends reported that Suzy had said she hoped for a large commission - something like £3,000 in the near future, and was thinking of jointly buying a property. With whom? Her flat in Putney had been up for sale for some time.

A former client from Suzy's days as a beautician said that Suzy had spoken to her a couple of years previously about a man from the West Country, possibly Bristol, who had a luxury flat and cooked her wonderful meals. It seems that Suzy began to suspect he was married, and her talk of the man ceased.

Mystic Uri Gellar turned up, offering psychic help, but was unsuccessful. He bent a spoon for the family, which took pride of place on the mantelpiece, but was later stolen.

Other mediums also offered help, to no avail, and the police worked themselves into the ground over the case. The discovery of an abandoned BMW, which turned out to be owned by a Mr Kiper in Belgium, seemed like a major breakthrough. But it came to nothing.

Headlines, headlines and more headlines were the order of the day in the nation's newspapers as the mystery of Suzy's disappearance deepened, and Diana, Suzy's mother, made many television appearances. Years later, Suzy Lamplugh's sister Lizzie described the impact of the news of Suzy's disappearance on the general public:

'I think Suzy’s disappearance had an impact for a host of reasons. It was a golden time, it was the mid-80s, everyone was living the life. Then one of those people disappears. Suzy was 25, beautiful and with everything to live for and then suddenly she’s gone.'

Lizzie also said of her sister: 'She was a full-on '80s girl, always wearing the latest fashions, with beautifully done hair and full make-up. She had such a big heart, too. She was my idol.'

Mr and Mrs Lamplugh decided that a book about their daughter's disappearance should be written, and that it should be written by an outsider, although they accepted that they might find the result difficult in some respects.

When Andrew Stephen, a respected journalist - and winner of the Feature Writer of the Year Award in 1984 - sent Paul and Diana Lamplugh the first six draft chapters of the manuscript for the book, the initial reaction from Mr Lamplugh was of approval. Then, a few days later, problems began. It's perhaps not surprising. Mrs Lamplugh had poured her heart and soul into setting up the Suzy Lamplugh Trust - an organisation to help young women (and very soon men) stay safe at work. Some of Suzy's apparent doings, discovered during the police investigation and recorded in the book, had been unknown to her parents, and Mr and Mrs Lamplugh had been shocked and distressed by them - and, in fact, discounted them.

And both felt that certain information was taken 'out of context'.

Andrew Stephen responded by stating that the information had been provided by the police investigating the case - and the Lamplugh family itself. But Mr and Mrs Lamplugh never reconciled themselves to certain aspects of the character and lifestyle of their daughter as portrayed in the book, nor to the book's portrayal of the family in general, and, at the start of the 21st Century,  Mrs Lamplugh was lobbying Jack Straw to pass a law forbidding 'libel' of dead people.

It's easy to understand their emotions. They were bereft at the sudden loss of their daughter, startled by 'facts' they could not accept as such, and also concerned that the publicity might damage the newly founded Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which they viewed as bringing something positive out of the whole terrible situation.

As indeed it did.

But, at the same time, a book devoid of the 'difficult' details provided by the police and, indeed the family, would not have served a great purpose, apart from painting a picture of an unflawed and untroubled human being. And none of us are that. In delving into Suzy's life and providing as much information as possible, the book provided some hope that somebody might come forward to provide fresh information and perhaps help to provide some closure for the family.

The book is certainly not sensationalist and according to its publishers, Faber and Faber, quoted in the Illustrated London News in 1988, Andrew Stephen had 'left out some incredibly difficult stuff - material that would have been better suited to, let's say, the News of the World than Faber and Faber.'

But without examining all the facts, which are not available, I'm unable to form an opinion on any perceived wrongdoings in the facts reported.

Perhaps it would have been better for the book simply to have remained unpublished. I strongly believe that Suzy's parents and family should have had the final say. But the book was published, and I do think it has value.


The Suzy Lamplugh Story was published in 1988.

In more recent years, it has been said that Suzy discussed a worrying boyfriend with members of her family  - but, as far as I am aware, this was never publicly stated in 1986. Mrs Lamplugh alerted police to investigate certain people she knew of in Suzy's life, but each was innocent of any involvement in her disappearance.

The book reports that Suzy had confided in somebody close to her about a rich man who was married or about to get married less than a month before she disappeared.

Suzy was declared dead in 1994. But there was still no trace of her.

Time moved on and, in recent years, the police have stated that they believe they know who abducted and murdered Suzy - and they have named him.

It appeared that Suzy may have had a brief relationship with a psychopath called John Cannan.

Cannan had committed various violent and sexual crimes from the late 1960s onwards and spent five years in prison in the early-to-mid 1980s. He was a very smart dresser, a video of him made for a dating agency in Bristol in 1987 confirms this, and it was said that many women found him charming.

On 25 July 1986, three days before Suzy's disappearance, he was released from prison, but in the run-up to this had already been circulating in the community, living in the Wormwood Scrubs hostel as part of the Prison Release Scheme and working at the Superhire Prop Company in Acton.

Significantly, fellow prisoners at the hostel recalled Cannan being nicknamed 'Kipper' on account of the fact he always asked for kippers for breakfast - and his ability to fall asleep easily.

Breaking the hostel curfew, it's believed Cannan gravitated to the fashionable wine bar circuit frequented by Suzy. One colleague at Superhire said that Cannan had spoken of a 'special girlfriend in Fulham' (although Suzy actually lived in Putney she socialised in Fulham quite a lot).

Was Cannan involved in mortgage fraud? Police suspect that he may have moved in such circles. Had Suzy stumbled upon some knowledge which  had 'necessitated' her removal? Or was it simply that she wanted to stop seeing him, was aware that he was 'Mr Kipper' and was going to use the time she was away from the Sturgis branch to tell him?


Still from a Bristol dating agency video - John Cannan in 1987.

John Cannan was arrested in Bristol in 1987. In 1988, he was charged with the murder of Shirley Banks, a number of sexual offences against two other women, and an attempt to abduct a woman the night before the murder of Shirley Banks.

In 1989 he was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of thirty-five years - and a recommendation from the judge that he should never be released.

The Suzy Lamplugh Trust set out to help lone women workers to stay safe - and its work was quickly extended to men when it was discovered that seven out of ten of those experiencing personal safety problems at work were men. Its work continues to this day.

Andrew Stephen's book fascinated me not only because of its telling of Suzy's story, but because of the background to that story. A background of aspirations, the housing boom, wine bars, Sloanes and yuppies.

It took me back to the summer of 1986. And it seemed like a different planet. It also struck me just how different people can be individually. I'm always glad to leave London when I visit. To me, there is no magic or 'vibe' there. However, when a boyfriend of Suzy's suggested she move elsewhere with him, she resolutely refused. To some people London is where it's all happening, but to others...

The book also deeply saddened me - the story of Suzy's final morning at work and immediate disappearance reminding me of how often happy, everyday routine can collide with terrible, unexpected tragedy in life.

Rather as it had with me when my dear old mate committed suicide that very summer.

According to reports, John Cannan has occasionally admitted to killing Suzy - although not to the police. Some believe that Cannan is playing games, enjoying his 'power' in refusing to reveal what happened to Suzy, totally without remorse, typically psychopathic. 

But as somebody who had been very close to Suzy recently said, they'd rather not know what happened to her. Indeed. What would be the point?

It wouldn't bring Suzy back. It would surely be a painful experience for all those who were close to her.

And t
he man responsible will never be free to harm again.

'Life is for living!' Suzy once told her mother, who was concerned that she was doing too much.

And with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust we can rest assured that, since 1986, many lone workers have been living life safer.

But the cost, a vibrant young life, was extremely high.