Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Corrie's Dud Story-Lines Of The '60s, '70s And '80s...

Sally, 1987: "Now, Kev, I've just 'ad a shaggy perm, I've got a lovely pink bauble in my hair, and we are going upwardly mobile whether you like it or not. For a start you can clean your moustache - it's got bangers 'n' beans by Heinz in it."

Since my post on my own personal worst Coronation Street story-line of the 1980s, I have received quite a large number of comments from readers listing their worst story-lines - not only of the '80s, but the '60s and '70s as well!

Let's have a trawl through some of them...

"Fame Fan" lists his or her worst story-line of the 1960s as being the train crash - "well over the top, and the studio set made it unconvincing". For the 1970s, "Fame Fan" lists Minnie being held hostage at Number 5 at gunpoint by Joe Donnelli. For the 1980s, the 1983 car in the lake story-line, starring Bet, Betty and Fred - "Street humour is often too heavy handed."

You think this is funny? Well, you're a right barmpot!

Mrs Hinchcliffe found the collapse of No 7 in 1965 "too daft for words - surely the whole terrace would have come down?" For the 1970s, Mrs H has a few candidates, but opts for the 1971 story-line in which Ernest Bishop was arrested for photographing a sex orgy in Spain - "Ernie, the lay preacher!". For the 1980s - Rita's amnesia in 1989.

"And when I woke up this morning, I thought, ee, it's 1982 - you know, like you do, I'll go to Blackpool on a singing engagement. They've got some lovely trams there."

Tim tells me that the 1960s train crash was a serious dud, the '70s shooting of Ernest Bishop was ridiculous - "Corrie trying to be the Sweeney", and that the 1980s main bloomer was Bet's marriage to Alec in 1987 - "They simply weren't suited."

Wendy thought that the comedy of the '60s sometimes went over the top: "I remember Stan Ogden getting involved in wrestling, which was pathetic." She found Elsie's marriage to Alan Howard in the '70s unconvincing: "He was far too posh for that street, or Elsie. I know the actors married in real life, but it was a stupid Street story." For the '80s, Wendy opts for: "Anything involving Sally Webster. That girl's squeaky voice and the way she pushed young Kevin drove me up the wall."

Chrissie thinks Christine Hardman's despairing waltz up to the raincoat factory roof in 1962 was "pathetic," and that the '70s really messed things up: "For years, we'd watched the Street, got to know the characters and their backgrounds, then in the '70s details of past stories, like the birth year of the Barlow twins, began to be altered. We knew they had been born in 1965, we'd watched the episode, but suddenly they had been born in 1963!" For the '80s, Kim opts for Len Fairclough's death in 1983: "We hadn't seen him for months - and suddenly he was dead!"

Dougal tells me that the "complete and utter pits" story-lines of the '60s, '70s and '80s were:

1) The train crash (1960s).

2) Deirdre beginning to date Ken (1979).

3) Deirdre marrying Ken (1981).

And finally for this trawl through, Margaret selects Valerie being held hostage by an escaped convict for the 1960s, the shooting of Ernest for the 1970s, and the introduction of Reg Holdsworth for the 1980s.

He were a right one that Ernie Bishop - getting arrested for photographing a sex orgy in 1971, getting caught by the police drinking after hours in a strip club in 1976, and getting shot dead in a wages snatch in 1978...

Thanks to all that have written. I've several messages still to read so there'll be more on-line at some point soon.

TV Cream Features Coronation Street - But Not Very Accurately!

On New Year's Eve 1979 Elsie called the '70s "a bad ten years". But history can be rewritten!

Isn't it strange how so many things from the 1960s and 1980s are now called '70s?

Take TV Cream's new write-up of Coronation Street (here).

It claims that Coronation Street went into colour in the '70s.

It was 1969.

It claims that Eddie Yeats was a CB radio enthusiast and a binman in the '70s.

He became a binman in 1980 and his CB craze was 1982 - after legalisation of CB radio in November 1981. Is 1980 actually 19710? Is 1982 actually 19712?

It claims Renee Bradshaw died in the 1970s.

It was 1980.

It claims that comedy became an important part of the Street's story-lines in the '70s.

But this is one of the daftest Wikipedia-style myths of all time - comedy was always important to the Street - and Bill Podmore simply sought to replace the comedy which had gone missing during the first half of the 1970s.

Nitpicking? Well no, I don't think so - if sites are set up to write about telly trivia, they can at least get it right.

And it never ceases to amaze me in general how many enjoyable items of 1960s and 1980s pop culture are attributed to the '70s.

TV Cream is far from being alone in this!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Maggie Jones

Just to say a few words about one of my all-time favourite Corrie characters and actresses - Blanche Hunt, played by Maggie Jones.

I was greatly saddened to read of Maggie's death recently. My wife remembers her in the 1960s retro drama The Forsyte Saga, but she first appeared before me when I was a small boy - in the early '70s retro drama, Sam.

Memories of Sam still make me shudder. In an era of industrial strife and blossoming yobbishness, Sam gave us grim tales of the past to "entertain" us.

That was, and is, my opinion.

But I liked Maggie Jones on sight - I forget the part she played, but she had more warmth about her than the average Sam character, and her character had that magic quality easily generated by some performers of being a real, everyday person.

When Maggie Jones first appeared in Coronation Street a few years later as Dierdre's mother I was delighted to see her there.

But her brief stay in the Street as a permanent character (1974-1976) and occasional appearances up until 1981, were in no way the glory era of Blanche. Personable she may have been back then, but Blanche's glory days lay much further ahead - dating from when the character was revived in the late 1990s. Of course, she ended up living with Ken and Deirdre.

Old Blanche was an acid observer of life and, for me, she represented the early spirit of the Street. She was very much an original character, and lived in the modern day, but her attitudes, her disappointment with many modern ways, reminded me strongly of Ena Sharples and Albert Tatlock.

Blanche was also apt to point out the absurdities of life in modern Corrie. In fact, absurdities have always been a fact of life in Corrie (like Tracy, parked outside the Rovers in her pushchair, being kidnapped a moment before a lorry crashed into the pub in 1979) but absurdities, as in all modern soaps, are now a much more frequent occurrence in the Street - and Blanche was never averse to pointing them out.

Blanche on Gail: "She loves a drama, that Gail, loves a drama. Never happy unless she's got someone's hands round her throat."

Blanche on Peter and Leanne opening a bar: "An alcoholic and an arsonist open a bar? Sounds like the start of a joke."

Sometimes I felt that Blanche spoke for us viewers who had enjoyed the show years ago, but now found it ridiculous.

Maggie Jones stated that in playing Blanche she always spoke her lines straight, never went for comic effect. And this added to the character's potency. Sometimes I thought Blanche had a point, as she spoke out against deteriorating values and standards. Watching the 1980s puppet character, Postman Pat, on television, Blanche launched into a tirade against the modern post person, and observed the lengths that post office counter workers might go to to defend themselves in our increasingly violent times.

Having experienced the diminishing postal service, elastic bands all over the garden path, and being grimly aware that our local shop (we no longer have a post office) had been violently robbed twice that year, I found myself nodding agreement.

Along with her acidly witty comments, and her tendency to stand outside of and ridicule daft story-lines, sometimes elements of Blanche's observations struck a painful chord of truth with me.

I'm getting old!

I never watch the Street - haven't for years. But I have enjoyed myself tremendously following Blanche's exploits on YouTube.

Blanche was sheer Corrie magic - and I can honestly say she was the only character featured in modern soaps that I had any interest in.

Maggie Jones was, quite simply, a brilliant actress, and the writers never let her down.

My sympathy to her family and friends.

I never knew Maggie.

But I'm really going to miss Blanche.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Annie Walker - From Old English Jellied Rabbit To Old English Cat...

Boxing Day 1977, and Mrs Walker (Doris Speed) was bragging to Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix) about her daringly different Christmas dinner:

"So I thought why turkey? Why pork? Heaven knows, life is humdrum enough without doing the same thing, eating the same meals, year after year, so do you know what I did?"

Elsie shook her head, thoroughly cheesed off.

"A marvellous Robert Carrier recipe out of Homes & Gardens - old English jellied rabbit."

Elsie (flatly): " 'Ow nice."

"Oh, it was delicious! Alf!" Annie turned to Councillor Roberts (Bryan Mosley), who was standing nearby, chatting to Renee Bradshaw (Madge Hindle).

Annie: "Just telling Elsie about our jellied rabbit!"

"Ooh, yeah, great!" said Alf, not terribly convincingly.

Annie returned to Elsie: "Of course, it's the brandy that adds the finishing touch, but you can use Madeira."

Elsie (bitchily): "It's a pity your Joan and Billy weren't there to share it with yer, in't it?"

Annie: "Oh, wasn't it! I've always believed that families should converge on the good cook at Christmas time."

Annie's smile became a smirk as her talk of delicious old English rabbit gave way to a display of fine old English cattiness: "I suppose your Linda was too busy with her own family to have guests."

DING! DING! went the bell on the bar as a customer rang for attention. "Excuse me!" Mrs Walker walked away, bathed in a victorious glow.

Elsie was furious and made to leave the pub, stopping for a quick rant at Alf and Renee: "Flamin' Homes & Gardens - in a scruffy 'ole like this, with a backyard full of beer crates!"

Have any readers here ever eaten Old English Jellied Rabbit? If so, I'd love to hear all about it!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Wishing all readers who are celebrating a very merry Christmas indeed! The illustration above was featured on The Street's 21st anniversary/1981 Christmas card - "21st anniversary greetings" was printed inside the card.

A quick scramble through my newspaper collection brings us back to 1981 again. Daily Mirror TV reviewer Hilary Kingsley makes a heartfelt plea to Corrie scriptwriters after an ear-shattering carol duet from Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander) and Eddie Yeats (Geoffrey Hughes).

I've had a couple of queries here - why are posts so irregular? Sorry! My main blog occupation is '80s Actual so posts here are as and when.

That's not to say that ancient Corrie isn't very close to my heart - it most certainly is!

All the best, folks!


Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Early 1980s: What Was Len Fairclough Up To? And "It Can Take 16 Episodes Of Crossroads (If You Can!)"

-Here's a newspaper advertisement from 1980. Video technology had been around for many years, but domestic VCRs in the UK for only a few.

Note that this is a top loader, too. The first front-loading VCR made its debut a couple of years later.

In 1980, only 5% of UK households possessed a video recorder - they weren't cheap to buy outright at that point, and even renting was a financial commitment many could do without in those "got no dosh, guv'nor," times. The video revolution had to hold on until later in the decade to begin to take hold (around 25% of UK households had a VCR in 1985).

Seeing the "What Happened To Len Fairclough?" ad reminds me of another early 1980s video recorder ad.

Do you remember "It can take 16 episodes of Crossroads (if you can!)" - from Radio Rentals?

Poor old Crossroads!

Friday, 30 October 2009

Who Is It?

Originally posted on September 24, I'm bumping this one back to the top of the page. Come on, folks!

Nice and easy teaser this - one of the men in this photograph went on to become a Coronation Street star some years later. Which man was it, what was his name, and which character did he play?

Saturday, 26 September 2009

1983: Pat Phoenix At The Pineapple...

From the Daily Mirror, December 17, 1983:

Sad Elsie makes her exit

Near to tears, actress Pat Phoenix leaves a TV location after recording one of her last scenes as Elsie Tanner of Coronation Street.

Pat, who is quitting the series after twenty-three years, would not say a word as she walked away from the Manchester pub where the scene was shot.

She stretched out face-down on the seat of the mini-bus that whisked her to the Granada TV studios 300 yards away.

Elsie is invited to leave the Street by old flame Bill Gregory, played by Jack Watson.

Bill, who gave Elsie her first kiss in the series, returns to give her the last one and provide the cue for her exit lines.

He asks her to join him in a new life abroad.

Jack said later that the scene had been "quite emotional" for both of them.

Elsie's final street appearance will be screened on January 4.

Of course, Pat Phoenix had not been in Coronation Street for twenty-three years, as the article stated. She left the show in 1973 and returned in 1976.

The 1983 pub location used for the scene with Elsie Tanner and Bill Gregory was the Pineapple, in Water Street, just up the road from the Granada Television studios.

The Pineapple was also the location for The Street's first birthday celebration in December 1961.

The pub later closed down and was bought by Granada Television.

In 1986, it was used for pyrotechnic scenes during filming of the burning of the Rovers Return story-line.

Some time afterwards, it was demolished and the site became part of the Granada Studios TV Tour car park.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Worst Story-Lines... The 1980s... Rita's Amnesia, Alan Bradley And A Blackpool Tram...

The Rita Fairclough/Alan Bradley/tram story-line of 1989 prompted some folk to write in more recent years that Rita's amnesia had taken her back to the time before she married Len, because of her use of the name "Littlewood" on her singing engagement in Blackpool. Rubbish! Rita ALWAYS sang under her maiden name, which was also her stage name, even AFTER she married Len. During the 1989 story-line, her mind had actually retreated to an unstated time during her marriage to Len (1977-1983). She referred to Len being at home because of a heavy work load, asked Bet Gilroy how he was coping without her, said he was joining her at the weekend, and then stated, studying the hotel's breakfast menu: "I know what Len'd have: kippers. You know, he never can resist 'em and I never get them for him. Can't stand the smell of 'em." Before Rita married Len, she wasn't in the habit of planning or cooking his breakfasts! Another fact is that a close up view of the hotel register, shown as Alan Bradley searches for Rita, reveals that Rita had signed herself in as Rita Fairclough. She was in Room 14, by the way!

"Cecil" has written to ask me what are my worst story-lines of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s...


I'm not a great fan of the early '70s Street at all and I don't know all the ins-and-outs of the 1960s. I'll have to think about that.

But as for the 1980s...

I think Rita's 1989 amnesia story-line stank to high heaven.

The OTT '80s played host to a variety of soaps: in one corner we had the "Thatcher's killing everything good" stance of some of our homegrown soaps, in the other, the preposterously rich fashions and ludicrous story-lines of the American soaps - remember when the 1986 season of Dallas turned out to be a dream? Remember when Fallon was taken away by a flying saucer in The Colbys in 1987?

And then, in 1989, a gritty story-line involving Rita Fairclough took a Dynasty-style turn to the bizarre, and I was worried for good old down-to-earth Corrie's future.

Rita and Len Fairclough had fought tooth and nail over her desire to continue her singing career as Rita Littlewood on an occasional basis. Rita won, of course. In 1980, Len and Rita almost split up - Len actually struck her - and Rita fled to Blackpool.

They were reconciled and enjoyed a few very happy years, until Len's death in late 1983.

In 1989, with a certain Alan Bradley exerting something of a reign of terror over her, Rita fled to Blackpool again.

Only this time she had amnesia.

Rita thought she'd left Len at home with a heavy workload whilst she was on a singing engagement in Blackpool.

When Bet and Alec Gilroy tracked her down, Rita had no idea that these two old acquaintances of hers were married, and was worried about how Len was coping at home without her. Still, she was going to make it up to him - he was coming to Blackpool at the weekend.

"She's shut everything out of her mind since before Len died," said Alec.

Rita couldn't stand the smell of kippers, but the whole story-line smelt distinctly fishy to me. Amnesia seemed so outlandish as part of a Corrie plot. And it was a trusted standby of the loopy American soaps.

And with Corrie having recently gone three days a week at the time, I thought the quality was starting to suffer.

Finally, Rita was shocked out of 1982 - or wherever she was living (no specific year was given) when she was confronted by Alan Bradley, who tried to drag her into his car to take her back to Weatherfield.

And then, of course, he was hit by a tram.

Some friends of mine tell me that this story-line was one of Corrie's best. But I'm not convinced.

There was something about it that brought to my mind Krystle Carrington of Dynasty.

And the harrowing time Fallon was believed dead in Dynasty and then turned up, minus her memory, calling herself "Randall Adams" in The Colbys.

Mind you, compared to some of the things that have happened in Corrie since, Rita's 1989 skirmish with amnesia seems as down-to-earth as an entire episode devoted to Hilda Ogden's washing day!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Coronation Street In 1980 - The Fantasy And The Reality...

From the 1970 Coronation Street TV Times souvenir magazine: Denis Parkin's view of the Street in 1980. Inset, the reality.

And so, there we were, in 1970, and Corrie was celebrating its one thousandth episode. The TV Times had come up with a commemorative magazine - very much as it had for the wedding of Elsie and Steve Tanner in 1967.

In the 1970 magazine, Denis Parkin, the Street's original designer, gazed into the future to give us his view of the Street in 1980.

Let's take a look at Mr Parkin's 1970 view of 1980, and the state of affairs in the real 1980.

The Rovers was all set for change, apparently. A grand revamp. Microwave ovens had arrived on the scene (at a price) in the 1960s and the Rovers would, apparently, be selling microwaved scampi and chips in 1980. And the punters would be able to watch ITV 2 (European Super League Soccer!). The regulars (joined by the inhabitants of a new block of multi-storey flats round the corner), would be able to order drinks anytime between 10.30am and midnight.

Piffle and bunk.

The '70s were a time of financial dire straits, and The Rovers was still a clapped out old boozer in 1980. Weatherfield had dabbled in high rise blocks in the 1960s, but quickly dropped the concept. There was no new colossal round the corner.

In 1980, microwave ovens were still not affordable to the vast majority - hardly anybody had them. I remember when a city centre cafe installed one where I live in 1981 - some of us were terrified of radiation poisoning! The microwave came home to roost in the 1980s, but in 1980 the Rovers certainly didn't have one.

However, Annie Walker did increase the pub's menu in 1980 - offering soup. Boiled in a saucepan, of course!

There had been talk of ITV 2 since at least the 1960s. But it never actually arrived until November 1982, as Channel 4. Plus, the Rovers had no television set in the bar in 1980. And as for the licensing laws...

Let's clack on down the Street:

Number 1 was as unchanging as Albert Tatlock.

Number 3 saw some change in 1980 - Arnold Swain, "husband" of Emily Bishop, had a new front door put on.

Denis Parkin did not foresee the changes at No 5. This house was completely modernised at the behest of cockney businessman Mike Baldwin in 1976. It reflected one of the great fixations of the mid-1970s to mid-1980s: having the middle wall demolished and knocking two cosy rooms into one great big one.

Back to Denis Parkin, and Len Fairclough and Elsie Tanner had done great things to their homes by the fantasy 1980: the frontages of No 9 and No 11 had been jointly renovated, with "neat, airy metal framed windows, re-pointed brickwork, and fancy porches".

And in the real 1980? Well, no, lovey, there was no dosh to chuck about in the 1970s, and by 1980 the frontages of No 9 and No 11 were unchanged. In 1980, Len and Rita Fairclough came close to breaking up. Len "belted 'er one" and she fled to Blackpool. When Rita finally decided to return, Len installed new kitchen units for her and, if I remember rightly, central heating. But, curiously, the draughty old wooden sash windows remained unchanged.

At No 11, Elsie Tanner had already made changes to her home in the late 1960s, installing a new kitchen. In the early 1970s, she installed a new pink bathroom suite. Very Elsie.

We'll clatter on past the Ogdens, where Stan had installed a serving hatch in 1971, and take a look at the fantasy 1980 Corner Shop:

"The Corner Shop is unrecognisable. With the nearby flats bringing more people into the area, it has been changed into a supermarket."

And in the real 1980? No, it hadn't.

The fantasy 1980 Street had been generally "improved":

"...the council have moved in, sealed off the street to through traffic and created pretty pavement triangles with flower beds and a bench."

Sounds fabulous. But, sadly, it turned out to be cobblers. It was still cobbles and cracked paving slabs in 1980.

And lastly, Mr Parkin took his fantasy 1980 view of the Street under the viaduct:

"... beneath the viaduct, British Rail have developed the arches and turned them into shops. A flashy boutique sells the latest 1980 catsuits, and over the viaduct the 150m.p.h London-Manchester express glides by on the hour."

Sadly, in the depressed (and depressing) 1970s, the viaduct arch was still associated with rag and bone man Tommy Deakin and its biggest moment of fame (I mean infamy) was Deirdre Langton being "molested" under it in 1977.

The catsuit, beautifully worn by Diana Rigg in the 1960s series The Avengers, had given way to the boiler suit in 1980.


All in all, in 1980, the Street was a bit of a dump.

Very much as it was in 1970.

Pat Phoenix - Designer Clothes And The Magic Of Elsie Tanner

Elsie, in a knock-out outfit, welcomes her grandson, Martin Cheveski (Jonathan Caplan), to No 11.

I don't know what it was about Pat Phoenix...

We've all read things about how the actress liked to dress way beyond Elsie Tanner's means. It's noticeable that Elsie, at least from the late 1960s onwards, was often very smartly (or flamboyantly) dressed.

The clothes Pat often wore as Elsie were definitely things Elsie could simply not have afforded. Not that we, the working class TV audience, of the 1960s to mid-1980s knew much about designer clothing. But we did know that Elsie often looked striking.

Elsie herself once commented that she liked to "spend a bob or two on clothes," but she still couldn't have run to some of the outfits she sported.

Bill Podmore recounted a few "Elsie dresses up" instances in his book, Coronation Street - The Inside Story (1990), including her memorable return to the Street in a designer raincoat in 1976.

Pat said that her appearance gave hope to women viewers of her age, but Mr Podmore questioned how they could possibly have afforded to emulate her?

At the end of the day, it mattered not. Whenever Elsie appeared on-screen, I was utterly convinced by her. The integrity and passion of Pat Phoenix's portrayal of 'er from No 11 somehow transcended her often way upmarket dress sense.

Miss Phoenix somehow managed to make Elsie real, whatever she was wearing.

I think, if Elsie had waltzed downstairs in 1983, in full Joan Collins Dynasty rig-out, shoulder pads, the lot, I would have been taken aback.

But if she had sat down at her table, picked up a letter and said something along of the lines of "I see the postman's been. Flamin' Nora - the gas bill, that's all I need!" I'd have been convinced that Elsie was real and struggling along on the breadline.

I rarely watch soaps now. But when I do see them, I see actors and actresses dressed in far more convincing garb than Pat Phoenix when it comes to their characters' income bracket.

But none of them seem as convincing, or as downright watchable as Elsie.

Pat Phoenix was, in my very humble opinion, absolute magic!

1983: The Mystery Valentine...

Sunday People, February 13, 1983:


Valentine's Day will set hearts in a tizz down Coronation Street tomorrow.

Marion Willis gets a card from fiance Eddie Yeats, but Elsie Tanner is surprised to find her lodger, Suzie Birchall, also has received one.

The card was pushed through the door with no name on the envelope, says Suzie. Inside the saucy message reads:

"With your gorgeous red hair and sexy looks,

"You'll always be Number One in my books."

But red-head Elsie, alarmed, has her doubts. She exclaims: "No name on the envelope, you said? How long have you been the only one round here with red hair?"

And Marion agrees: "It could be for any one of us."

No wonder the Street's red-heads are all of a flutter!

Who remembers the outcome of this story-line? Which of the lovely Number 11 ladies of 1983 was the card intended for?

Coming Soon...

Eee, flamin' Nora... When you look back...

I were just thinkin' last night, whilst Jack were in't cludgie, about the time Ernie Bishop went to a stag night - complete with strippers... and one of 'em, "Miss Rising Blood Pressure 1976" seemed right taken with 'im...

Sadly, Ernie were married to "Miss Victoriana 1976" and she weren't best pleased to find out what he'd been up to...

Flippin' 'eck!

More soon...

Monday, 7 September 2009

Ena Sharples And The High Rise Photograph - The Details...

I had an e-mail the other day that said some very charming things about this blog.

Very appreciative indeed it was.

So, I chortled in reply:

"My dear! But of course - this is The Annie Walker, The Gatsby, The White Swan, The... er... Laughing Donkey of retro Corrie blogs. Nothing is spared, no expense spent, in our quest to bring you somethin' you might fancy 'avin' a bit of a read of every now and then."

And every word of what I wrote to my appreciative audience of one is absolutely true.

And so, in our great tradition of sheer ruddy brilliance, we bring you the full details of the Ena-Sharples-on-a-high-rise balcony-in-the-1960s photograph.

Ena found her tenure as live-in caretaker at the Glad Tidings Mission Hall threatened in 1966. So, where would she live now? In a high rise block, perhaps?

Photographer John C Madden took the high rise photograph of Ena. The so-called "slum clearances" in Manchester were well underway by the mid-1960s.

In Moss Side, the area near Cornbrook Street had begun its transformation in the early-to-mid 1960s. The first new high rise blocks were named after the old streets they were replacing - Pickford Street, Clifford Street and Grafton Street were commemorated as Pickford Court, Clifford Court and Grafton Court.

And so there in Moss Side it was that Violet Carson posed as high rise Ena. With the rest of the old neighbourhood still intact and the gloriously industrial-looking Hydes Brewery in the background, this was the ideal setting for Weatherfield, which, as you will recall, succumbed to a few high rise flats, but not many.

The wide, busy road in the Ena photo was Cornbrook Street. And it's absolutely vanished.

Ah, you screech, but Cornbrook Street still exists - so how could it have vanished? Well, actually, lovey, part of Cornbrook Street still exists. It used to continue on the other side of the junction with Chorlton Road and ran up to Moss Lane West.

The part of Cornbrook Street seen below Ena is now parkland and modern housing.

The religious-looking building in the photograph was St Bride's Church of England Primary School, and the street with the replaced roof tiles was Dudley Street.

The chimney pots and brewery on Moss Lane West can be seen in the smoggy distance.

It was a different world.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

1983: Fred Gee, Bet Lynch, Betty Turpin, A Car And A Lake...

Sunday Mirror, May 1, 1983:

Looking ahead to the week's TV:

Coronation Street, (ITV, 7.30). It's time for a Bank holiday spree. Fred Gee (Fred Feast) takes Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) and Betty Turpin (Betty Driver) out for a whirl around the countryside and a picnic lunch. But it doesn't work out quite as it should.

One of my favourite Coronation Street story-lines of the 1980s was the "Car In The Lake Outing" of May 1983.

Rovers potman Fred Gee (Fred Feast), trying to be a wow with barmaid Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear), tempted her with an afternoon out - a picnic somewhere "nice". He'd take her in his Rover 2000 motor car - the one which had once belonged to Rovers landlady Annie Walker (Doris Speed).

Bet was quite keen on the idea of a picnic, but not at all keen on being alone with "Fred Face", and so invited her trusted colleague Betty Turpin (Betty Driver) along for the ride.

And a "ride" it certainly was, with the Rover ending up rolling into a lake - with Bet and Betty inside it.

And when Bet finally made it back to dry land, it wasn't that dry either - because dear old "Fred Face" dumped her down in a cow pat!

Of all the women Of Weatherfield in 1983, Betty Driver and Julie Goodyear were the most called upon in the courage and endurance stakes.

Recalling the filming of the "Car In The Lake" scenario in the book The Coronation Street Story (Daran Little, 1995), Julie Goodyear said:

"I had on a pink skirt, a jacket and a very flimsy T-shirt and some plastic beads and a pair of white high-heels, and they gave me a brown plastic bin-liner with two holes in it for my legs. I stepped into that and it was tied round my waist. And of course the water went up as soon as we went in and the bag was immediately filled with lake-water. The car sank and we were both waist-deep in very, very cold lake water."

Betty Driver gave her account of the watery saga:

"Now, me wellies were full of water to start with, and I said to Julie, 'There's a stickleback in the water here, dodging all around me. I hope to God it doesn't go anywhere else!' We were terrified and there was a swan swimming by and every time it passed the window it hissed at us and I thought it was going to attack us."

The sequence took two days to film, and Julie Goodyear and Betty Driver received congratulatory bottles of brandy from producer Mervyn Watson, with notes thanking them for their hard work.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

1981: The Arrival Of Alma Sedgewick...

The Sun, Monday, June 22, 1981.

Alma Sedgewick (Amanda Barrie) made her Coronation Street screen debut in 1981. And all I can say is, that cafe on Rosamund Street had gone right downhill.

Flippin' 'eck!

It had started out in the late summer of 1978 as quite a nice little place, lovey. Owned by Joe Dawson (Peter Schofield), and staffed by Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire) and Gail Potter (Helen Worth), the food was a little on the pricey side - so pricey in fact that Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) declared on her first visit that she'd come back when she was married to a Rothschild - but it was a nice stop-off for a cuppa and a fancy cake. Mind you, the crusty loaves sometimes looked a little overdone to me, although Mr Dawson was a baker by trade.

Sadly, all this changed in 1980, when Jim Sedgewick (Michael O'Hagan) bought it and turned it into a transport cafe to take advantage of trade from the new lorry park at the back of Canal Street.

Emily, horrified by the ruffians and the jukebox, beat a hasty retreat, Gail stayed and Elsie Tanner (Patricia Phoenix) became manageress.

Then, in 1981, Jim Sedgewick's wife, "Alma The Alligator", put in her first appearance.

Describing Alma in her early days, Amanda Barrie once said: "She was a frivolous, heartless, work-shy, person who wasn't interested in anything except herself."

But people, and Corrie characters, can and do change. Alma was an occasional visitor to the cafe and the show until late 1988, and then settled down to become a Street regular and favourite.

The Sun newspaper's 1981 TV feature on Amanda and Alma read:

Actress Amanda Barrie takes a sentimental journey to Coronation Street tonight.

Although she now lives in London, Amanda comes from Manchester and made her first stage appearance there.

Amanda will be a regular in the Manchester-based Coronation Street (ITV 7.30) for a short spell.

She plays Alma Sedgewick, wife of the owner of Jim's Cafe, who has to do the cooking now that Elsie Tanner (Patricia Phoenix) has been sacked.

Amanda says: "We used real food and I ended up feeding anyone in the cast or film crew who felt peckish."

Monday, 24 August 2009

Kathy Jones - Coronation Street's Tricia Hopkins - Sings "Down Our Street", 1976

I have just enjoyed a YouTube clip of Kathy Jones, Coronation Street's Tricia Hopkins, singing a song called Down Our Street in 1976.

Late '70s and early '80s little 'uns will probably remember another venture Kathy was involved with for a while - the Granada children's programme A Handful Of Songs. A girl, a guy and a guitar, pictures and requests sent in by youngsters, and there you had a successful formula which certainly kept my two little sisters and their friends glued to the screen for the ten minutes or so that each instalment was on.

Below is some YouTube music - Tommy Steele, singing A Handful Of Songs, when it was a chart hit back in 1957. Lots more Handful of Songs '70s/'80s TV series details can be found here.

Said In The '70s - Part 3

1976: Tricia Hopkins (Kathy Jones) and Gail Potter (Helen Worth) are working together in the Corner Shop. Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) has just come into the shop to make a purchase, and the recently-returned Elsie Howard (Pat Phoenix) is the subject of conversation.

Tricia thinks that Gail is jealous of Elsie's glamorous appearance. Gail is outraged.

Gail: "Jealous?! What, of somebody 'er age?!!"

Tricia: "I'd like to see you when you're 'er age. You're grotty enough now!"

Gail: "Have you seen yourself lately?!"

Ena (annoyed): "Look, I don't like to break up a first class row, but would somebody give me a packet of tea?"

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Holiday Time!

Holiday time - Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant) and Ena Sharples (Violet Carson) take a holiday at home. Minnie wears her "Kiss Me Quick" hat!

Well, I'm off on me hols - Hunstanton beckons.

"You're holidaying in England?!" an American pal of mine said last night.

Well, yes. A holiday isn't a holiday to me without a nice stick of rock and a rain-lashed beach!

Next week, I'll start the 1976 Revisited series of posts. Until then, whatever you're doing, I hope you enjoy it!


E-Mails - Coronation Street Tory Propaganda In The 1970s... And More Albert?

Just a brief round-up of some recent e-mails received. The Corrie 1980s Anti-Thatcher post I wrote yesterday and posted in the early hours of this morning has already sparked a response from Colin, who tells me:

Yes, fine, there was no full employment in the 1970s, and Bet Lynch was talking cobblers in 1986. Some thick-witted scriptwriter doing a spot of soap-boxing was probably the culprit. But do you remember the pro-Tory propaganda in the show in the 1970s? I particularly remember Ken and his girlfriend saying how the working classes had taken all the money from the middle classes, now had more money than they did, and were basically sitting pretty. I lived in conditions of great poverty in the '70s and sometimes found Corrie's stance incomprehensible and offensive.

The conversation you mention took place between Ken Barlow and Wendy Nightingale in 1976. It was bizarre, I thought. My family was on the breadline, we lived in a council house with a 1950s crumbling prefab kitchen tacked on, and there was a cold, mouldy wall in my bedroom.

It was very odd indeed as, with inflation rampant and unemployment spiralling, things were very difficult for many working class people. I'm not sure how interested people are in Corrie politics, but I'll certainly write more on the '70s Tory "thing" when I return from Hunstanton.

Meanwhile, Grace asks if we can have more Albert Tatlock?

I've loved the Albert-themed posts. Jack Howarth was brilliant!

Yes, there will be more Albert in our 1976 Revisited posts, coming soon!

1980s: Anti-Thatcher Propaganda In The Street...

Eee, the 1980s! The decade when we split into two camps - LOVE THATCHER or HATE THATCHER and our soaps developed a Left Wing bias. I fell into the second camp, very firmly, and a glimpse of Margaret on my TV screen would have me screeching for the remote control.

Brookside bravely showed us what a rotten country it was under Thatcher, and EastEnders followed suit.

The realities were far more jumbled (I hope one day somebody writes an unbiased study of the turbulent, multi-faceted '80s) but it was a shame when Corrie stooped to silly anti-Thatcher propaganda, and put absolute nonsense into the mouth of Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear), briefly making a mockery of the character.

It happened in 1986. Hilda Ogden (Jean Alexander) asked Bet to reinstate Sally Seddon (Sally Whittaker) to her full-time post as Rovers barmaid, as Bet had just employed Betty Turpin (Betty Driver) to make the pub food, and cut Sally's hours.

Said Bet: "We're not living in the '60s and '70s now, Hilda, when the problem weren't getting the jobs, it were persuading folk to turn up and do them. Nobody were a bigger skiver than me - never worked Mondays and Fridays for years. But them days have gone, Hilda - and nobody can fetch them back..."


Firstly, whilst Bet was known to skive off under Annie Walker's regime at times, she didn't often get away with it, often ended up shouldering more work than she thought she should, and sometimes worked when she wasn't scheduled to - to suit Lady Walker's whims.

So, it seemed the scriptwriter didn't know Bet's history very well - or was very forgetful.

But worse was the absurd notion that the 1970s were a time of full employment.

Let's trek back briefly. In the 1970s, unemployment passed the million mark before we were midway through the decade, and stood at around one-and-a-half million by the end of the decade.

And Coronation Street fully reflected the fact.

In the mid-1970s, there was much publicity about graduates leaving universities and being unable to find work. Coronation Street featured this issue in 1975, when Annie Walker was threatened by two young men in her bedroom, seeking to rob her. She was informed by one of them that he had been through college, but there was no job for him.

In 1976, Gail Potter (Helen Worth) and Tricia Hopkins (Kathy Jones) faced losing their jobs at the Corner Shop. They tossed a coin for the chance of a job at Sylvia's Separates, and Gail won. Trisha could not find employment, and left the Street to live with her parents.

Also that year, Alf Roberts (Bryan Mosley) was terrified at the possibility of redundancy at the sorting office where he worked.

And 1976 brought us the grim tale of Ernest Bishop's photographic business going bankrupt and his and Emily's desperate searches for work. Emily was forced to take a job as an orderly at the infirmary, Ernest spent several months in the wilderness before being employed by Mike Baldwin.

Another epic tale from '76 involved a dastardly plan devised by Annie Walker (Doris Speed) to cut Betty Turpin (Betty Driver) and Bet Lynch's wages, rather than give them a pay rise! Both walked out, but walked back in again, glad to have their jobs back, when Annie dropped her plan. The pay cut would not go ahead, but they wouldn't get any pay rise that year either, Annie decided!

Fred Gee (Fred Feast) told Annie Walker that he was well aware he was lucky having two jobs when a lot of folk didn't have one!

Not long before Christmas 1976, Terry Bradshaw (Bob Mason) lost his job with Fairclough and Langton. Despairing of finding another job in the district, and romantically rebuffed by Gail Potter, he went back into the Army.

In 1977, Steve Fisher (Lawrence Mullin) decided to go abroad to find work when he was sacked by Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs), saying he was going "because there's no jobs here." Fortunately, Mike reinstated him.

In early 1978, Ernest Bishop (Stephen Hancock) was accidentally shot and killed by two unemployed young men in a wages snatch at the denim factory.

In late 1978, unemployed Gail Potter and Suzie Birchall (Cheryl Murray) decided to seek work in London, although they were warned that it might not be easy. In the end, Gail chickened out, and Suzie set off for the bright lights alone, only to return in early 1979, disillusioned. Her failure to find permanent work, and her drift into a tacky relationship with a wealthy older man, note wealthy (Suzie did!), made fascinating viewing.

If Bet Lynch had been a real person she would have never have made such a barmy comment about full-employment in the '70s. The Bet we saw on-screen in '70s Corrie knew the realities.

But there she was, in 1986, basically stating: before Margaret Thatcher, we had full employment!

Maggie was obviously to blame. Before her, everything in the UK employment garden was peachy.

It was a shame. The illusion briefly fizzled. It wasn't Bet speaking, it was some well paid scriptwriter, who obviously did not know his/her facts.

Now, if Bet had said: "Things haven't been easy for a long time, but they've got a damn sight worse since Thatcher came to power - unemployment's more than doubled!" I'd have risen from my armchair and cheered.

But in 1986, when the grim realities of the '70s were far too recent in memory to have been hyped and rewritten, her comment simply brought a puzzled "EH?!!" from yours truly.

I well remembered my step-father's time on the dole back in the '70s. And still do.

Bet's boob qualifies as one of the battiest comments in Corrie history.

But it's an interesting manifestation of the "EVERYTHING WAS FINE BEFORE THATCHER" ethos of many TV scriptwriters in the 1980s.

Intruder: "I've worked very hard, been to college, but there's no job for me, nowhere. So I've decided that what I can't get legally, I'm prepared to take.."

Emily: "What's wrong with us, Ernest, why CAN'T we find work? I mean we're reasonably well-educated, responsible adults..."

Tricia: "I've 'ad a sickener round 'ere just lately - no money, no job..."

Alf: " 'New Staffing Levels', they called it. I never thought it'd work out like this."

1978 - Ernie was accidentally shot and killed when two unemployed youths tried to snatch the wages at the denim factory.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Coming soon - 1976...

Coming soon - a few surprises in store when we revisit 1976 - the year that Gail Potter got up to naughties with a married man in the stockroom at Sylvia's Separates, jobless Tricia Hopkins said her farewells, Renee Bradshaw took over the Corner Shop, a certain brash London businessman breezed into the Street, and Stan Ogden left his dear wife, Hilda...

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

1981: Ken And Deirdre And Charles And Diana...

It's strange now to look back at 1981 and think how things turned out for the Royal wedded couple of that year. But, back then, the wedding was a bright spot in a highly turbulent year, and the public was entranced by what seemed a fairytale romance.

Fad-wise, 1981 had some real corkers, as illegal CB radio usage went into overdrive in the run-up to legalisation in November, and, after the arrival of the Rubik's Cube in late 1980, the UK was finally fully stocked with them (there had been a shortage) and the colourful puzzle took over 1981. They were everywhere. You could even get a Charles and Di version.

As an aside, the legalisation of CB radio in November 1981 led to romance in The Street in 1982 as Eddie Yeats (Geoffrey Hughes) joined the craze, adopting the "handle" "Slim Jim", and meeting the love of his life, "Stardust Lil", Marion Willis (Veronica Doran) over the airwaves.

A survey for the Walls Ice Cream Company came up with the findings that the Cube was 1981's favourite children's toy, and hide and seek was the favourite children's game.

Days of innocence...

Well, not really. They just seem it in comparison to now!

Coronation Street, of course, got another dose of wedding fever, as well as the royal one (Corrie characters tended to be royalists in those days) as Ken Barlow (William Roache) and Deirdre Langton (Anne Kirkbride) said "I Do" on 27 July, a couple of days before the royal nuptials.

From the Daily Mirror, 27 July, 1981:

The Street of smiles

Ken Barlow and his bride Deirdre Langton have ensured that their wedding won't be completely upstaged by holding it two days before the royal nuptials.

Deirdre is sure to cause a stir by dispensing with her horn-rimmed specs for the occasion.

"I thought most women would take off their glasses for the biggest day in their lives," said Anne.

"I wear contact lenses normally, but I took them out so I could get a better feeling of what it is like without them. I found it quite difficult to negotiate the aisle.

"I leaned on Alf Roberts's arm going up the aisle and held on firmly to Ken Barlow's coming down."

I sympathise with her - the world's a blur for me without me specs!

The ad on the same page brings back memories. VG shops! And to celebrate the Royal Wedding, they were offering Persil automatic at fifty-five-and-a-half pence, Domestos at thirty-nine-and-a-half pence, and Whiskas cat food (large tin) at thirty-and-a-half pence.

Oh, and you could win a Ford Fiesta in Mr VG's Royal Wedding Competition.

Those were the days...

1984: The Complicated Love Life Of Miss Mavis Riley...

Rivalry at The Rovers and consternation at The Kabin in 1984... Victor Pendlebury (Christopher Coll), Derek Wilton (Peter Baldwin), Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) and Rita Fairclough (Barbara Knox).

1984 always sounds ominous to me - also being the title of George Orwell's famous novel. Did you know that Mr Orwell took several years to write the book back in the 1940s, and that it was originally to be set in 1980, and then in 1982?

The real 1984 didn't see the arrival of Big Brother - I think that today is far more like that, with the various databases (established and planned) and security cameras logging our every move - but it did see the arrival of the Apple Mac - complete with affordable computer mouse. A revolution was beginning...

The UK edition of Trivial Pursuit arrived and we went trivia bonkers. Sir Alec Jeffreys accidentally discovered DNA fingerprinting, at the University Of Leicester, England (More here). The miners fought a bitter, losing battle; Frankie Goes To Hollywood shocked the charts; the yuppie era was drawing in; V was on the telly and Do They Know It's Christmas? hit the No 1 spot. Agadoo was another chart favourite. Push pineapple, grind coffee? Hmm...

In the world of fashion, shoulder pads were getting bigger and bigger, people were streaking their hair blonde and using hair gel to very striking (or ugly, depending on your viewpoint) effect and moon boots were a must-have, as were Frankie Say T-shirts.

And, in Weatherfield, one woman agonised over the attentions of two very different men...

The love life complications of Miss Mavis Riley, reported in the News Of The World, September 16, 1984

Having met meek-and-mild mother's boy Derek Wilton way back in 1976, Mavis Riley had developed a very diffident, on-off relationship with him. Well, when I say "relationship", I don't mean that anything improper took place, goodness me, no!

But it was more of a (kind of) romance than just a friendship.

And the Derek and Mavis "romance" flickered on, and off, until 1982. Towards the end of that year, Mavis met one Victor Pendlebury at an evening class, and together they penned a story which was broadcast on local radio. Of course, Mavis was nerve-stricken on the day - was the story too... earthy? she wondered. But, apart from one or two adverse comments, the local branch of civilised society did not collapse in a heap.

And then, in 1983, Victor, every inch the poetic wanderer of moor and heath, the weaver of words, the potter of pots, asked Mavis to join him in a trial marriage.

Mavis, whatever you may think, wasn't really a fuddy-duddy, despite her dithery ways. Our Miss Riley wasn't totally out of touch with the racy realities of 1980s living, wasn't a total prude - in fact, she was once accused of being a "Jezebel" (though only by Derek). But this sort of behaviour, living with a man outside of wedlock, was certainly not for her. She was particularly upset when she discovered that Victor intended to pass her off to his neighbours as "Mrs Pendlebury" and she would be expected to live a lie. Brave and unconventional Victor - not!

Then, in 1984, Mr Wilton and Mr Pendlebury suddenly made plain their desires to make Mavis their Mrs. And Mavis was left in a hopeless state of dither. Which should she choose?

Finally, she plumped for Derek. The wedding was arranged, the church and the reception were both booked...

But on the big day the indecisive couple suddenly chickened out. Neither turned up at the church. Their feelings for each other were simply not strong enough.

We, the folks sat at home in front of the "one-eyed monster" (as my granny called the telly), were absolutely agog.

The News Of The World had leaked the non-wedding story-line, and, in September 1984, contained an interview with Thelma Barlow.

She worked in an office for years, devoting her spare time to amateur theatre.

"Then I decided the time had come to make a break and really do something about acting," she says.

"So I went off to London, as green as a cabbage."

She got a job with Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop, and then appeared in plays all over the country.

Thema has been a Street regular for the last 11 years.

She confesses: "I'm not at all like Mavis in real life. Someone like that would drive me mad. I admire strong, positive people, and she's the essence of indecision.

"Unlike Mavis I've long since lost my shyness.

"When you're up there on the tele in front of millions of people, you're bound to meet some of them off screen.

"If you can't stand to be hailed by total strangers you shouldn't be in the Street.

"We're friends of a huge family of viewers and we've got to accept it."

The Street's scriptwriters originally did not plan Mavis as one of the series' main characters.

"I was only supposed to be in one episode, but the character clicked and I've been fluttering over medium sherries ever since," says Thelma.

"There are some good qualities in Mavis. She sticks to her principles at all times and is starting to develop a little bit of steel...

"I can imagine masses of spinsters all over Britain watching me in the midst of all this wedding drama.

"They all obviously picture themselves in Mavis's situation and identify with her like mad.

"That's what makes the whole character of Mavis so very interesting.

"I've got a special picture in my mind of who Mavis is, and I play to it."

And she adds: "I can see me playing Mavis for a long time to come."

This was very good news. And it wasn't the end of Derek and Victor as far as the story-lines went, either.

And when Derek proposed to Mavis again, in 1988, through the letterbox of the Kabin door, things turned out very differently...

And Mavis was a "Miss" no longer!

Monday, 10 August 2009

1969: Man On The Moon And Tatlock Goes Over The Top...

An historic headline from the Daily Mirror, July 21, 1969:



Inside the paper, we turn to the TV listings...

... and discover such delights as loads of Apollo 11 coverage, Crossroads, Not In Front Of The Children, World In Action and Coronation Street. Whilst history was being written elsewhere, Corrie was focusing on two if its menfolk, and the onus was on comedy. The synopsis read:

Stan enters the rag trade and Tatlock goes over the top.

So, what was it all about? Well, consulting my trusty Coronation Street - 1960-1985 - 25 Years book, I discovered full details of the story-lines: Stanley Ogden (Bernard Youens) had borrowed £50 to buy fifty suit lengths from 'Billy Oilcloth' on the market, planning to sell them for £10 each. But Hilda (Jean Alexander), thinking they were stolen, sold them for £1 each whilst Stan was out.

Meanwhile, Alice Pickens (Doris Hare), out to snare Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth) into marriage, turned up at his regimental museum where he was giving a conducted tour. He fell off the platform in shock, breaking his arm and two ribs ("Tatlock goes over the top"!), and Alice moved in with him to nurse him - the choice being either that or a stay in hospital.

In August, Albert proposed to Alice, but in September both bride and groom were left waiting at the church when the vicar's car broke down and he failed to make it to the service. Albert and Alice called off their marriage plans.

September 1969 - the wedding that wasn't. Standing to the left of Albert is his daughter, Beattie Pearson. Actress Gabrielle Daye made occasional appearances in this role from 1961 to 1984.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Rovers - 1976

Dave writes to ask if we have a pic of The Rovers Return, in the days before the wonderful 1982 passageway, when the pub loo doors opened directly into Albert Tatlock's house at No 1.

Certainly, Dave, here's our favourite boozer in 1976.

As some wag once said, no wonder Albert was always so grumpy...

Said In The '70s - 2: Telly Watching With Uncle Albert Tatlock...

Ken Barlow (William Roache) - a frustrated telly watcher in 1976.

Ken was pleased to note that a Shirley MacLaine film was being shown on the telly one night in 1976. As he told Bet Lynch, hopefully he'd get Albert Tatlock to go to bed before the film started at 9pm, and then he could enjoy it.

Just after 9pm, Ken walked into the Rovers Return. Bet was surprised:

"Ah! Don't tell me - Shirley MacLaine run off with another fella!"

Ken: "Yeah, Uncle Albert, actually!"

Bet: "Ah, that I can understand!"

Ken: "He decided that he wanted to watch the film too, and that I couldn't stand! He's got this unbreakable habit of talking through the plot - you know, not the dull bits, he'll keep quiet for those, but let anyone try to say anything vital, and he's off!"

My wife says I'm just the same.

Flamin' cheek!

Anyway, back to our Mr Tatlock - bless him! Although he didn't actually appear in this particular episode, he certainly made his presence felt!

Poor old Ken...

Domestic bliss with Ken and Albert (Jack Howarth) in the early 1980s.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Albert Tatlock - High-Flying Gadabout!

Posh Albert - mixing with Roddy Llewellyn.

Whilst Albert was stuck in The Rovers, hoping for a rum, Jack Howarth who played him was apparently often out and about, mixing with the great and the good.

From Peter Tory's Diary, Daily Mirror, February 9, 1983:


CORONATION STREET actor JACK HOWARTH (he plays grumpy Albert Tatlock) will be 87 next week. But he rarely misses an important party in London.

The other evening he was hob-nobbing with PRINCE MICHAEL OF KENT. Here he is at another function discussing the Mike Baldwin-Deirdre Barlow situation with PRINCESS MARGARET'S former boy friend RODDY LLEWELLYN and MRS TANIA LLEWELLYN.

The Llewellyns are both fans of the TV show, which is watched by 16 million people every week.

Jack is much admired by MRS THATCHER, who gave him the MBE in the New Year's Honours List. He supports her policies and would like to meet her.

What was the "Mike Baldwin-Deirdre Barlow situation" mentioned in the article?

It was the famous Mike/Deirdre love affair, of course, which had an awful lot of people on the edge of their seats back in 1983.

Even posher Albert - mixing with Annie Walker.

Remembering Arthur Leslie As Jack Walker...

Debbie has written to tell me that she fondly remembers Rovers Return landlord Jack Walker, played by Arthur Leslie from 1960 until his death in 1970:

He was such a kind man, putting up with Annie, and very caring to the locals in the pub. He always tried to help people. I used to wish that I knew Jack in real life - he would have made an excellent relative or friend.

I remember crying when Arthur Leslie died in 1970. I was 17 and I had grown up with Jack and Annie and I was just so sorry that the actor had died in real life.

There's never been another Jack Walker!

I agree - Jack was a lovely character, and Arthur Leslie was held in high regard. I have an old TV programme on VHS (tucked away somewhere, I must find it!), featuring an interview with Betty Driver talking about how helpful Mr Leslie was to her when she made her Street debut as Betty Turpin in 1969.

Street writer and producer Harry Kershaw wrote about Arthur Leslie in his 1981 book, The Street Where I Live:

When he died in 1970 show business lost one of its most talented men and certainly one of its nicest. He was a quiet man who wasn't given to talking about his past but his tremendous value as an actor-manager in the theatre was evidenced by the number of 'big names' who, when visiting Granada, first paid their respects to Arthur. Success had come to him late, almost, he confided, when he thought his career was finished. Finished, although he didn't say it, with little in the way of material reward to show for the years of dedication. And then had come Coronation Street and the quiet man who was known only to the repertory audiences of South Lancashire became a national name, a well-known and well-loved face. And he enjoyed every minute of it.

Jack Walker was certainly one of the kindest characters to ever live in Coronation Street. And Arthur Leslie's on-screen partnership with Doris Speed (Annie) helped to make the show's first decade one of its very best.

In fact, in my humble opinion, the very best!