Saturday, 2 January 2010

1976: The Naughty Night Out...

It began, as did so many things, with Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow). Her Auntie Edie was away from home for a few nights and Mavis was nervous, being alone in the house. Good Samaritan Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire) came to her rescue - Mavis must stay at No 3 with herself and Ernest (Stephen Hancock) until Auntie returned.

It was Emily and Ernie's wedding anniversary, but that didn't matter.

Mavis was more than welcome.

And Emily said so without consulting her nearest and dearest.

Ernest was horrified and sought refuge in The Rovers, where Alf Roberts (Bryan Mosely) and Ray Langton (Neville Buswell) came up with a tempting alternative: why not come to The Gatsby with them? There was a special Easter Monday stag night - "The Ties Only" Club - and strippers galore would be in attendance.

Back to No 3 went our intrepid hero, to tell Emily that he'd agreed to play the piano at the Easter Monday concert at The British Legion. They had an extension, so it was going on quite late.

When Mavis pointed out that it was a good job she was there, because Emily would have been alone otherwise, Emily, who knew Ernie was only making himself scarce because of Mavis's presence, could only agree with a grimace.

Still, the two women made the most of things, and settled down to an enjoyable session of tea and gossip.

"According to Mrs Waters, he's still living there..." said Mavis.

At The Gatsby there was naked female flesh in abundance. And Fatima, "Miss Rising Blood Pressure 1976", took quite a shine to Ernie - who was delighted and stunned.

It was a very excellent evening.

An evening of flesh and tassels.

And then, as the final act, "Madame Ultimate", was just about to make her entrance, the police swooped. The Gatsby, which had exceeded its extension of hours for its fleshy jollities that night, was raided by the police.

And, before you could blink, Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) was reading the tale of "The Ties Only Club" to the assembled regulars at The Rovers Return.

The Gazette
had done its job well - but not as far as Annie Walker (Doris Speed) was concerned. The "Ties Only" article featured a photograph of former mayor Alf Roberts, with Annie, his mayoress, taken during his reign.

Annie was terribly upset. Obviously, some of her lady victualler friends and regulars would think that the photograph had been taken the night before at The Gatsby - and that she had been there!

Alf Roberts, sorry, councillor Alf Roberts, was so embarrassed. Ray Langton thought it was funny - until Deirdre (Anne Kirkbride) resorted to domestic violence, slinging some wedding present crockery at him and cutting his face.

Meanwhile, Emily left Ernest in no doubt about her feelings regarding his slinking off to his "peculiar dives".

And him a lay preacher on the local Mission circuit!

When Ernest pointed out that he would have spent the evening with her if she had not invited Mavis to stay without consulting him, Emily told him he was being unreasonable.

Mavis had been dispatched back to Auntie Edie's by Ernest, leaving the couple free to wage war.

Emily told Ernest that his going to the stag night at The Gatsby had been the "grossest and vilest insult" to her. He'd gone to watch some "painted whore" when he could have been with her.

She frowned down on him furiously, her halo throbbing.

Ernest sought refuge at the pub. And when he returned...

... discovered that Emily had locked him out of the marital home.

Good neighbour Len Fairclough (Peter Adamson) took Ernest in. He didn't take the bust-up at No 3 seriously.

However the situation wasn't helped by Elsie Howard (Patricia Phoenix), who called round with a jumper she'd bought as a present for Len. Sadly, it didn't fit, so Elsie decided that Ernest could try it on. She assisted him. And that was the moment Emily walked in, to find the Street's scarlet woman giggling and grappling with her husband.

Frosty Emily rose high above them.

She told Ernest that she'd simply called to bring him some of his clothes - it would save him having to call at No 3 for them...

The frost seemed set, hard and permanent, but soon Emily relented enough for Ernest to return home.

However, she made it plain he had not been forgiven. Oh dear me, no!

The frost had thawed. But only slightly.

"Everything's spoilt, Ernest, don't you realise that? Nothing'll be quite the same again - never quite knowing if you're lying me!"

And then came the news that Mr Mortlake, the Mission superintendent, was going to be paying Ernest a little visit. Word about The Gatsby fiasco had swept the gossiping back streets of Weatherfield, and now Ernest's position as a lay preacher was in peril.

Help came from an unexpected source - Mrs Ena Sharples (Violet Carson).

The Ena Sharples of the 1960s would have probably descended on Ernest from a great height, heaping coals of fire on his poor defenceless head.

But the Ena Sharples of the 1970s was an altogether milder and wiser creature. She saw Ernest's brief departure from the Narrow Path for what it was - a daft one-off, and didn't see why a genuinely religious man, an excellent preacher, should be lost from the local Mission circuit.

She reminded Ernest of Lord Longford and his fight against "filth" - Ernest got her point - Lord Longford had openly sought out "filth" on occasion to see what he was fighting against!

If Fatima the Gatsby stripper, was Weatherfield's "Miss Rising Blood Pressure 1976", then Emily was definitely its "Miss Victoriana". She didn't want Ernest to lie to Mr Mortlake. Ernest said he wouldn't be lying - just bending the truth. He did a lot of good work for the mission and didn't see why he should be drummed out of service because of one silly incident.

Emily was most displeased.

When Mr Mortlake arrived, Emily stood by, looking like a cross between the author of the Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady and The Hanging Judge.

Ivor Mortlake was played by Frank Mills, later Betty Turpin's husband, Billy Williams.

Mr Mortlake was grave. At first. One of their lay preachers... a well respected one at that... caught in what can only be described as extremely unfortunate circumstances...

Things looked grim for preacher Ernest.

Ernest asked Mr Mortlake if he knew of Lord Longford? Of course, Mr Mortlake did, and heartily endorsed his work.

And then Ernest fed Mr M. Ena's inspired tale that he, Ernest, had gone to The Gatsby for the same reasons - to seek out filth, to see what he and the Mission were up against with his own eyes. He hadn't wanted to go, he'd been practically dragged there, but gone he had, out of a sense of a duty.

And he was now all the better to fight the goodly, Godly battle.

"You can fight more effectively if you know a bit about your adversary. You can't just read the Sunday papers."

Mr Mortlake declared that Ernest's story had thrown a different light on things.

"And you're going to do a sermon on it, are you?" he asked.

"Yes, yes, I am," said Ernest.

"Only one, Ernest? Seems such a waste of material," sniped Emily.

"So you don't propose to pay another visit?" asked Mr Mortlake.

"Oh, no..."

"Well not to strip clubs," Emily's face was screwed up with sarcasm. "His next target's blue films, isn't it, Ernest?"

"Really?" said Mr Mortlake, very interested indeed.

After a cup of tea, he gave Ernest some final words of reassurance:

"Somebody has to do these tasks. And when there's a good explanation..."

And he assured Ernest that the Mission committee would feel the same as himself.

As he picked up his jacket to leave, Mr Mortlake asked: "By the way, are these places really as bad as people say?"

"Well..." said Ernest.

Mr Mortlake continued: "No, I mean, between you and me, like, what does happen on stag nights?"

Ernest took the moral high ground just vacated by Emily, who had left the room: "I'm surprised at you asking me a question like that, Ivor, I really am!"

"Now, don't get me wrong, Ernest, I'm only asking. I've never been inside one of these places, but from what you tell me I feel I've got a duty to... well, you see what I mean."

Ernest saw only too well. "Stag night at The Gatsby is Tuesday."

"Tuesday..." mused Mr Mortlake, mentally checking his availability that night...

Later, in The Rovers, Ena told Ernest that she wasn't proud of helping him in the way she had, and added: "But I just happen to think there's much worse than the likes of you in this world, Ernest Bishop."

As she spoke, as if to underline her point, Stanley Ogden (Bernard Youens) came staggering in, reeling drunk.

"Much worse!" said Ena, grimly.

Slowly, Emily's frostiness thawed at No 3.

Ernest told her that she was such a perfectionist, he was just a frail human being. He sometimes found her standards impossible to live up to.

Whether Mission superintendent Mr Mortlake attended The Gatsby stag night, all in the name of the Lord's work of course, is not known.

But "The Ties Only Club" definitely had to make do without Ernest from then on.


  1. What a fabulous plotline. I wish I'd been there to watch the originals. Emily Bishop today as the grand dame of reasonableness, poise, and dignity is one of my favourite characters. I wouldn't have minded watching any episodes involving her, Rita, and Blanche (and perhaps that annoying Norris) chewing the fat, gossiping, and just enjoying each others' company at a booth at the Rovers.

    Thanks Goodness for Corrie -- past and present! And thank you for these posts from Corrie past!

  2. Thanks for the feedback, I'm pleased that you're enjoying the blog. Feedback is always welcome.

    I remember Norris actor Malcolm Hebden in short-lived Granada soap Albion Market, back in the 1980s. I'm glad he's found success as Norris.