Thursday, 21 January 2010

Brian And Gail - The Big Question...

You remember Gail and Brian Tilsley, of course, don't yer? 'Course yer do - young marrieds of the 1980s - had a couple of kiddies, she worked in a cafe, he were a garage mechanic, she thought she'd got pregnant by his Australian cousin, he got stabbed outside a nightclub...

Anyway, back in the 1980s much was written about Brian and Gail. Were they going to be starring in a steamy bedroom scene? Was little Sarah Louise Brian's daughter or the other feller's? Why didn't Gail do something different with her hair? Why was Brian so muscular when the character only worked as a mechanic and never mentioned going to the gym? Did those big shoulder pads give Gail a more-than-slight resemblance to "Popeye"? Why had Brian suddenly grown a great big mullet?

And so on, and so forth - you get the picture.

But, apart from their famed "bedroom scene", Gail and Brian did something that was truly groundbreaking for Corrie couples back then - something no other Corrie couple had ever done before. Do you know what it was?

If you do, please leave your answer in the comments.

The Duckworths' Stone Cladding - Which Year? And The Changing Cast Of The Street...

At The Granada Studios Tour - knocking on Vera's front door and in the hall. I loved messing about on the Street's exterior and interior sets! As usual, I've blanked out my physog - it's not for those of a nervous disposition.

Tony writes to ask:

When did No 9 get stone cladding?

The notorious year was 1989, Tony!

Sara asks:

How many of the original cast were still in The Street in 1970?

Only a handful, Sara. Of those who actually appeared in the very first episode, there was Annie Walker (Doris Speed), Albert Tatlock (Jack Howarth), Ken Barlow (William Roache), Elsie Tanner (Pat Phoenix) and Ena Sharples (Violet Carson). Two other members of the original cast who did not actually appear in episode one remained at the start of the year - Jack Walker (Arthur Leslie) and Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant - originally an extra). Arthur Leslie died during 1970, and Jack was laid to rest in June, having died whilst on a visit to his daughter.

By the start of 1980, the original characters had dwindled to Annie Walker, Albert Tatlock, Ken Barlow, Elsie Tanner and Ena Sharples. Ena made her final appearance in April, although nobody was aware of it at the time!

The early months of 1984 saw the original residents reduced to a total of one - Ken Barlow.

Said In The '60s - Part 1

Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant) and Martha Longhurst (Lynne Carol) in the Snug at The Rovers:

Martha: "You know, the more I think about the way Ena's behaving, the madder I get. I wouldn't care, but I know for a fact that in her own mind she thinks she's beautiful."

Minnie: "Oh, I wouldn't say beautiful, but she is a bonny woman."

Martha: "BONNY?! Ena Sharples' face is so ugly it wouldn't make ear 'oles! I've only met one woman plainer and that's our Jessie."

Minnie: "Oh, but your Jessie can't 'elp it. Well, I mean, it isn't many women as falls through a garage roof..."

1983: Dishing The Dirt On Elsie Tanner's Past...

Life in Coronation Street didn't begin on 9 December 1960. Eee, no, lovey - the residents had pasts stretching back to when Adam were a lad.

And some of 'em were a bit on't seamy side (sniffs disapprovingly).

Take that Elsie Tanner in't 1940s - skirts up to 'ere and 'got any gum, chum?'.

From the Sunday Mirror, August 14, 1983:

Your Coronation Street favourites have secret pasts - going back long before the start 22 years ago of Britain's most popular TV series. They are documented in Granada TV's confidential files on the Street stars. The dossiers are updated after each week's episodes so that writers can avoid factual errors in future scripts.

But it is the past "lives" of the Coronation Street regulars - built up to give them believable backgrounds - that makes the most fascinating reading. These Secret Lives have never before been made public. Now you can read all about them in this intriguing Sunday Mirror series.

It is 1942 - We'll Meet Again time - and the Yanks are overpaid, over-sexed and over at Elsie Tanner's.

Ena Sharples watches, clucking disapprovingly, as a procession of servicemen bearing everything from nylons to chocolates, comes and goes at No. 11 Coronation Street.

Flame-haired Elsie is well and truly launched on her career as the Street's scarlet woman.

Hair-netted Ena had seen it all coming. That little minx, Elsie Grimshaw as was, had never been able to resist anything in trousers.

By the time Elsie was 16, the inevitable had happened. She was pregnant by a tearaway called Arnold Tanner. He did the decent thing and married her on October 4, 1939.

The couple moved into No. 11 where, on January 8, 1940, their daughter, Linda, was born. Soon afterwards Arnold went off to join the Merchant Navy.

From then onwards, he sent Elsie money regularly but was rarely seen again. She wasn't one to sit and pine. Or to be lonely.

As often as Elsie could recruit a babysitter, she went out on the town.

In 1941, though, Elsie had to stay at home for two whole months when Arnold put in one of his rare appearances. Their son, Dennis, was born the following year.

That year, 1942, was when the Yanks "invaded". Soon word was out at the bases that there was a warm-hearted girl in Coronation Street running a one-woman "hands-across-the-sea" crusade.

Among the Yanks beating a path to Elsie's ever-open door was a handsome Master Sergeant called, coincidentally, Steve Tanner. He and Elsie made beautiful music together... and they weren't talking about Glenn Miller.

The end of the war brought little rejoicing for Elsie and Arnold. When he came home, they fought like cat and dog. And it wasn't long before Arnold found a new love and went once more a-roving.

The only time Elsie saw him again was in 1961, when he turned up to ask her for a divorce. Elsie agreed and settled joyfully into her new role as a fancy free bachelor girl.

Viewers will recall how she turned down two proposals from a besotted Len Fairclough.

Then with all the shock of a bomb going off, Master Sergeant Steve Tanner exploded back into Elsie's life and swept her into matrimony.

Elsie thought it wouldn't last. As usual, she was right. The marriage was never a going concern and it ended in tragedy when the American was murdered.

Elsie tried marriage once more - to Alan Howard. They were divorced in March 1978, and Coronation Street's scarlet woman, now 60, is alone again.

Judging by a few novels I have read recently, based on the Street in wartime, I think that some of these details have been revised since the 1980s. But these were the facts regarding Elsie's past as they stood during Pat Phoenix's reign in The Street, and the facts I was familiar with through watching the show (Elsie's past was often referred to!) and through reading the HV Kershaw Coronation Street novels.

Read about Eric Rosser, the original Corrie archivist, here.

More from this fascinating newspaper series soon.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

1978: The Shooting Of Ernest Bishop... A Personal View

January 1978: the gun goes off...

Mrs Wright has e-mailed to ask:

Do you think that the shooting of Ernie Bishop in 1978 was a silly story-line? I wondered if the producers had been watching too much Starsky And Hutch myself.

Well no, I don't think so, Mrs Wright.

I believe that in the 1970s Coronation Street portrayed an outdated community (it probably still does) - with everybody living in each other pockets. The cosiness was one of the things I loved most about it, but there was always room for a socially relevant story-line to burst that bubble. The 1970s stuck a fist through the Street's cosy '50s/60s windows a few times (as did the '80s).

I read recently on BBC Online that experts believe the upsurge in youth gun crime began in the poverty of the 1970s and so I believe that The Street was actually being very topical when Ernie was gunned down in January 1978.

The production team were obviously in touch with the social trends of the time and did not feel that the tragedy was so outlandish as to be impossible.

And, although I was sorry to see the end of Ernie Bishop, and it was a shocking and harrowing story-line, I think they made the right decision.

Bobby The Cat

An unusual screen-grab request from Mr Niggle:

Please can you upload a screen capture of Bobby the cat on his own?

Yes, certainly - you see above Bobby The Second, pride and joy of Minnie Caldwell (Margot Bryant) settling down for a sleep in the early 1970s. If you haven't already read our tribute to Minnie and Bobby, it's here.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Uttered In The '80s - Part 5...

In October 1989, Curly Watts (Kevin Kennedy) - "Norman" to Mrs Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire) - landed himself a job at the local Bettabuys supermarket. He was assistant manager (trainee) to Mr Reg Holdsworth (Ken Morley), manager.

It was a slightly complicated set-up as Curly's landlady, Vera Duckworth (Liz Dawn), worked at the supermarket, and Curly was her line manager.

When Mr Holdsworth asked Mr Watts to make written assessments of the staff, Mr Watts did so. And the reports were as sweet as Mr Watts' nature.

Not good enough, said Mr Holdsworth - he wanted to convince Head Office just how lousy the staff were, and just what a great job management was doing in keeping the ship afloat.

Mr Watts rewrote the assessments, including a few choice criticisms of Vera - particularly regarding her time-keeping.

And then Mr Holdsworth sprang it on Mr Watts:

The assessments were to be used to assist the management in decision making - six staff members were to made redundant early in the new year.

And, thanks to Curly, Vera, his esteemed landlady, figured high on the list of those to be given the boot.

Curly managed to sort things out so that Vera kept her job, but Vera got wind of what he'd done initially (pointing out her bad time-keeping to Mr Holdsworth) and she and Jack (Bill Tarmey) sent him to Coventry.

They had loud conversations in Curly's presence, designed to make him feel uncomfortable:

Vera: "Do you know what really upsets me, Jack? This person lives with us."

Jack: "Eats our vittles."

Vera: "Watches Home And Away with us!!"

Jack: "Do you know, it is like suddenly finding a rattlesnake in yer cornflakes!!"

Poor old Curly. Things never worked out for him.

And the way he applied his hair gel did him no favours, either.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Uttered In The '80s - Part 4...

Newcomers Liz and Jim McDonald (Beverley Callard and Charles Lawson) popped into The Rovers Return to suss out their new neighbours in 1989...

Liz took a good, long squint at Mavis Wilton (Thelma Barlow) and Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire):

Jim: "What are you looking at?"

Liz: "Those two plain Janes at the bar, quietly knocking it back."

Jim: "Free country, isn't it?"

Liz: "Yeah, I know, but I didn't think they were the type."

Jim: "You're enjoying yourself, aren't yer? Standing here putting labels on everybody."

Liz: "I love it!"

Liz on Ken Barlow (William Roache): "Now, here's a mystery man!"

Jim: "Why?"

Liz: "He's too smooth for round 'ere, a bit too 'shiny-shoed'. I bet even his wife don't see him in his vest and underpants."

Jim: "Eh, now listen, I quite fancy his wife."

Liz: "Well... she's not plain."

Jim: I know, I could... er... breathe on her glasses."

Of course, at that point in time, Deirdre (Anne Kirkbride) was unaware that Ken was indulging in a spot of heavy breathing with Wendy Crozier (Roberta Kerr).

And there was so much else going on.

Jim and Liz little realised just what a fascinating street they'd moved to...

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.