Friday, 25 February 2011

Speak Easy - February...

In one of her despondent moods, Mavis Riley came across a book called 1001 Ways To Fill Your Spare Time in The Kabin library. "None of them work!" she sighed. But that was 1976, and things are very different today. So, Mavis, if you fancy writing to Back On The Street from your home in the glorious Lake District and letting us know how you're getting on, we'd be very glad to hear from you. And it would be a great way for you to fill the odd minute or two!

All comments and ponderings welcome here at the Speak Easy!

And so, here we go...

Jane writes:

Your stuff about the Corrie pillar box was genius - just a pleasure to read. You're very funny, but obviously know your stuff. Watch out, Daran Little!

LOL - Mr L has watched every episode of the show, acted as archivist and written episodes. We just like looking back in our own way and sifting through old episodes and newspaper articles. We do promise accuracy though, in fact we're downright pedantic!!

Sara writes:

Loved your article about the teens in the show. I remember an episode in the '70s when Gail Potter made Mike Baldwin feel old by mentioning Stevie Wonder. "Stevie WHO?!!" said Mike. But Stevie had his first hit in the late 1960s, so you would of thought Mike would of known about him!

I've got that episode, and yes, it was funny. The Street being terribly modern in the late 1970s... never mind the Buzzcocks - let alone the Sex Pistols!

James writes:

Don't you think Phyllis Pearce was a fruitcake?

Eccentric and highly colourful she was! But there was a reality about her. She hadn't aged mentally - very much the oldest swinger in town - but in the back of her mind lurked the knowledge that she was no spring chicken any longer. She was very grateful to Martin Platt when he was nice about the dress she chosen for a dance in the late 1980s, after Gail Tilsley had made a good natured joke about what Phyllis SHOULD be wearing at her age, and she was terribly insecure about her job at the cafe. It gave her something to do, a place out there in the community, but she knew her age was against her, that the job might be taken from her and given to somebody younger, and that she stood zilch chance of getting another.

All flirty and cheerful on the surface, relentless in her pursuit of Percy Sugden, underneath it all Phyllis knew she was far from being sweet sixteen. I admired her courage - and zest for life.

That's it for now, folks - keep 'em coming. I'm off for a little lay down and a spot of Classic FM...

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Name That Cliffhanger 2 - The Answer!

Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) thought that Fred Gee (Fred Feast) was a very nice man. Rita Littlewood (Barbara Knox) was quite unmoved.

Thanks so much to those participated in our latest Name That Cliffhanger challenge. Only one right answer this time - and congratulations to Coronation Street Corner , who wrote:

Am I right in saying that she pretended he was her boyfriend because Fred Gee was pestering her to go out with him - she kissed him when Fred came to the shop to check up on her. What would be interesting if you could evaluate the Fred/Rita relationship in a blog post. Fred was one of many that held a torch for our Rita!

Absolutely correct answer, and an interesting idea for a future blog post. Thank you!

Anonymous wrote:

Had Rita been drinking? Was she not responsible for her own actions?

Well, knowing how our Reet liked to nip in The Rovers at lunchtimes, she probably had BEEN drinking, but that didn't contribute to her actions in this case!

Greg wrote:

1976 - the year before Rita married Len - so I wonder if she was kissing Derek to make Len jealous? Mavis was probably in on it.

Interesting scenario, Greg, but not the right one!

Cerys wrote:

Mavis was sick of Derek and asked Rita to take him off her hands. However, Rita's overtures made Derek realise that he loved Mavis.

Another interesting scenario - have you ever thought about taking up soap scriptwriting?!

The full, unexpurgated truth, is below.

At that time in 1976, Fred Gee was new to the permanent cast, and the lazy, randy, ogling Fred of the late 1970s and early 1980s had yet to emerge.

This was Fred's first venture into the romantic arena since losing his wife, Edna, in the warehouse fire the previous year.

He was completely smitten by Rita, took her a pot plant ("Keep blooming," he told her), and invited her to a big band concert.

Rita was horrified and took the coward's way out - telling Fred she already had a boyfriend.

Fred, however, did not give up, and called at The Kabin just to make sure Rita's sweetheart turned up for their date, ready to whisk her off to the big band concert if not.

Derek's arrival at that point, with a message for Mavis, was a gift from the gods for Rita. Fred didn't know him, and she swooped on him, giving him a big kiss and greeting him as her boyfriend.

Fred was crestfallen, telling Derek he was a lucky man - and to look after Rita.

Rita couldn't resist teasing Derek after Fred had left the shop, with her "just ask and it shall be yours!" comment.

Of course, it all came out - and Mavis was furious, telling Rita she couldn't keep her hands off any thing in trousers. She also gave Derek his marching orders.

Rita managed to win Mavis round, and engineered a meeting between her and Derek in The Rovers. So, the relationship which would culminate in marriage in 1988 was back on track.

Meanwhile, Fred was hurt to discover the truth about Rita's fella, and told her there had been no need to make a fool of him.

And Rita was left feeling rather shabby.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Renee Bradshaw - Not What She Seemed...

Renee Bradshaw (Madge Hindle) breezed into Coronation Street in 1976.

Her arrival was foreshadowed by her brother Terry (Bob Mason), who warned Ray Langton (Neville Buswell) that Renee would eat him on a cream cracker!

Bit of a tyrant, our Reen. Terry was clearly in awe of her.

She was clearly an astute businesswoman, ousting tenants Gail Potter (Helen Worth) and Tricia Hopkins (Kathy Jones) when she took over the Corner Shop, and announcing plans for an off-licence - which brought her into conflict with Rovers landlady Annie Walker (Doris Speed).

Renee was successful in her application for an off-licence, and settled down to run the shop and look after Terry.

She wasn't as bad as she was painted. In fact, quite soon, viewers grew to like Renee, famous for standing behind the Corner Shop counter and saying: "Yer what?!!" on hearing the latest daft spoutings of Eddie Yeats (Geoffrey Hughes) or the latest piece of hot gossip.

Terry left at the end of 1976, rebuffed by Gail Potter, a girl he harboured romantic notions about, and unable to find work in the area having been laid off by Fairclough and Langton.

Renee retained her excellent business sense, refusing to let Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) move into the Corner Shop flat when she couldn't afford the rent Renee was asking, but changing her mind when Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs) secretly offered to subsidise Bet.

Having been dropped by her sailor boyfriend, Renee began seeing Alf Roberts (Bryan Mosley) and a romance developed which ended in marriage in 1978.

Coronation Street producer Bill Podmore later described the marriage as "rather humdrum" - which it undoubtedly was, and so, in the summer of 1980, Renee and Alf seemed set to go off and run a sub-post office at Grange-Over-Sands.

Unfortunately, Renee was killed by a lorry when she, by then a learner driver, took the wheel of the car whilst out with Alf and managed to stall it.

Alf inherited the Corner Shop, and decided to stay on.

Madge Hindle said of the production team's early vision of Renee:

"I think they wanted somebody to be strong and argumentative like Ena Sharples. But unfortunately you can't do that in a shop because people won't come in."

And so Renee lost her fiesty side.

However, Madge Hindle, an accomplished actress, managed to invest the character with a likeable warmth and many viewers (including me) were sorry to see her go in 1980.

But not sorry to see the end of the Alf/Renee humdrum marriage.

But still, for me personally, the character of Renee, particularly in her Bradshaw days, remains a favourite Street memory.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Name That Cliffhanger - 2

In our second Name That Cliffhanger session, we've headed back to 1976 and The Kabin (then based at 14 Rosamund Street). Rita Littlewood (Barbara Knox) and Mavis Riley (Thelma Barlow) may have got on each other's nerves at times, but they were the best of friends really - neither would ever do anything to hurt the other.

Or would they?

Witness the scene above - Rita greeting Mavis's boyfriend, Derek Wilton (Peter Baldwin) with a passionate kiss...

Worse still, Mavis was out - having a drink at The Rovers at the time!

At the double doors leading up to her flat, Rita said:

"Derek, just ask and it shall be yours!"

Derek replied nervously: "What?"

Rita smiled, saucily: "Anything!"

And the scene faded to the closing credits.

Was Rita really out to steal the boyfriend of her best pal Mavis?

Does anybody know the answer out there?

Friday, 18 February 2011

1989: Trailer For New Coronation Street Omnibus Edition...

Alf Roberts seems really excited about opening the Corner Shop on a Sunday... but he isn't really! It's early 1989 and the pics above are screen grabs from a trailer for the (then) brand new Coronation Street omnibus edition!

By the magic of YouTube, see it below!

The Coronation Street Pillar Box - Another Casualty Of The Tram Crash?

Chewy has written:

I reckoned you'd find this of interest, they've got a new postbox in the show now (after they lost the old one) was the old one there since the start or was it knocked over in the train crash?

Here's a pic of the new one

Love the blog though, even though it cuts off the year I was born in :D

Glad you like the blog. Thanks for writing.

Hmmm... interesting question...

Well, of course, Coronation Street had a pillar box outside the Corner Shop since Day One, and I thought it might be rather nice to take this opportunity to look at the highs and lows of its life on that draughty old corner, and indeed ask the question: "Was it always the same box?"

And did the original box survive the train crash of 1967?

The screen grab recently sent to us by Sky Clearbrook of Ida Barlow's funeral in 1961, clearly shows our old pal the pillar box, standing respectfully behind Florrie Lindley (Betty Alberge).

The tragic train crash of 1967 - and the pillar box has been knocked over - just follow my clumsy pink arrow! Oh, no! It does not appear to be damaged, however.

Look out for a glimpse of the fallen pillar box on this YouTube footage of the train crash (from about 0.44 in).

Of course, the pillar box was not always present in the Street from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, the era of the first outdoor set. Well, even pillar boxes need a break occasionally!

No, seriously, the pillar box was removed whenever filming was completed as the set was often visited by vandals and the box could have been damaged or pinched.

In the excitement at the end of the ITV strike in 1979, the Corrie production team appear to have forgotten to put the pillar box in place before recording Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) and Len Fairclough (Peter Adamson) welcoming us back to Weatherfield. The box-less 1981 picture (on the right) was taken on a non-filming day.

"Morning Ma'am!" The pillar box meets the Queen in 1982, and is immortalised on a mug in 1985. Ironically, later that year the shop changed dramatically, retaining its "Corner Shop" title, but also becoming "Alf's Mini Market" - with a drastically modernised frontage.

From the building of the 1982 outdoor set onwards, the pillar box appears to have been a permanent, immovable feature.

A pillar box through the decades - with Ken Barlow (William Roache), Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire) and Len Fairclough in the 1970s; with Curly Watts (Kevin Kennedy) and Shirley Armitage (Lisa Lewis) in the 1980s; and with me in the 1990s. I posted some postcards to friends and relatives in that box whilst on the Granada TV Studios Tour, and they were received with the postmark: "Posted In Coronation Street"!

Note that the pillar box in the pics above is actually two pillar boxes! The design of the box seen in the 1970s photograph appears to be the same as the one in the 1961 funeral cortege screen grab. The 1980s/1990s/2000s pillar box is slightly different to the earlier model. Take a close look and compare the two!

There may actually have been other models used over the years but, from the evidence available to me, I can say that the box incorporated into the latest Coronation Street exterior set when it was built in 1982, looks the same as the box on duty outside the Corner Shop until the recent disaster.

Note that the box in the 1970s photo is positioned some way from its original early 1960s position just outside the shop and is much closer to the viaduct. This move would appear to have taken place when the new outdoor lot was established in the late 1960s. The box seen in the 1980s and 1990s is back in its original early 1960s position just outside the Corner Shop.

Eek! The Corner Shop, the pillar box and Molly Dobbs (Vicky Binns) are aghast as a tram crashes off the viaduct and heads straight for the shop. Molly, highly sensible as always, heads back into the shop. But, according to the screen grab on the right, the pillar box appears to have left the scene before the tram reaches its location.

Rather than being annihilated by the tram, I, being a whimsical little beggar, like to think that the old faithful pillar box skipped the country for a well-earned retirement and is, even as I write, swigging back the gin and tonics on a lovely beach in Portugal with Elsie Tanner, whilst both reflect on the good old days.

Okay, that's unlikely I know! But then so is a hammer murder, an explosion and a tram crash all in one night - and as for the ghost of Vera Duckworth...


Oh dear, for all my fanciful longings, having just viewed the tram crash scenes and taken some screen caps, I must face facts - the pillar box was destroyed.

Oh well...

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Ken And Deirdre - Happier Times...

Bill has written:

I've just watched the first on-line Corrie episode in the 'Ken and Deirdre's Bedtime Stories' saga and I thought it was funny and at the same time sad because the couple don't seem close at all and I was thinking about their first wedding in 1981 and how optimistic they were. What do you think? And do you have a photo of Ken and Deirdre in happier times? I feel quite concerned for them!

I saw it, Bill, and thoroughly enjoyed it. There's probably some affection underneath! I loved the scenario because it reminded me of Corrie in the good old days - a lovely, character-led scene, without an explosion or murder in sight!

I've posted a photo of Ken and Deirdre in 1988. This was the "January" pic in the 1989 Coronation Street calendar, and is from my treasured copy, signed by the cast.

Sorry, William Roache's autograph is missing because I couldn't scan the whole pic on my minute scanner! As you can see, Deirdre's beauty regime was different then - a lovely '80s shaggy perm - and note that her glasses had altered from the thick plastic-framed pair she originally wore. The pair in the pic are thinner framed, squarer, and if anything bigger than ever! But then, in the 1980s, everything was bigger!

Of course, in 1989, Deirdre went in for a brillo pad perm, which didn't really suit her.

But never mind. 1989 also brought us Sky TV, and, although it took some time for it to take off, Deirdre's 21st Century nights in front of the "soothing" shopping channel were assured.

I never thought the marriage would work - academic Ken and down-to-earth Corner Shop assistant Deirdre seemed a very unlikely combination to me back in 1981.

And, of course, it hasn't really worked.

But, although mismatched, they're still together.

I know several real life couples like that!

Norma Ford - Looking Retro In The 1970s...

Maggie Clegg (Irene Sutcliffe) and Norma Ford (Diana Davies) share a smile at the Corner Shop - probably over Norma's out-dated fashion sense. Norma went even more retro at Christmas 1972 for the Rovers 1940s Show, teaming up with Bet Lynch (Julie Goodyear) and Betty Turpin (Betty Driver) to sing Apple Blossom Time.

Actress Diana Davies revealed how her dress sense as the Street's Norma Ford in the early 1970s was actually out-of-date at that time in a 1987 interview - and earned her the nickname "Di the Thigh":

"I used to play shop assistant Norma Ford in Coronation Street. Norma was a bit behind the times so she used to wear mini skirts and hot pants, even though they were out of fashion.

"And I've got long legs - hence the name."

Diana inherited Paula Wilcox's wardrobe from the 1970 to 1971 comedy series The Lovers - so Norma, who made her debut in The Street in 1972, looked rather late 1960s. Mind you, with flared trousers and quite a lot of '60s hippie chic overshadowing the fashions of the 1970s, she didn't look too bad!

Norma wasn't alone. I mean, take a peep at Gail in the late 1970s: she sometimes looked as if Punk (and indeed at times the whole of the 1970s) hadn't happened. That dreadful coat she used to wear - so 1968, darling!

Gail Potter (Helen Worth) sees the Faircloughs off on their honeymoon in 1977. Ever heard of Punk, darlin'?! Study old magazine fashion articles from 1968 to 1973 and spot the Gails!

Terry Duckworth, supposedly street wise bloke-about-town in the 1980s, was often so out of date he looked like a right wally!

A related point is that nobody could call most of the Street's youngsters' tastes in music exactly cutting edge in the 1970s or 1980s either.

Dragged round various fashion shops by my older cousin, Sue, in the 1970s, I can vouch for the fact that the music played was current chart toppers. In The Western Front, Mike Baldwin's shop, staffed by Gail and Suzie, the music was horrendously out of date - late 1960s or early Roxy Music - and the music Gail and Suzie played at parties when Elsie was away was either yonks old or '70s '50s retro.

When Sally Webster, throwing a party at No 13 at the end of 1987, came up the hall warbling away to Shakin' Stevens' Lipstick, Powder and Paint, I nearly choked on me savoury rice and turkey sausages. Manchester was the city of Madchester at the time! Surely we could have at least had Pump Up The Volume?

All was explained in 1989, when Percy Sugden, ranting about late 1980s dance venues and "Acid Drops" (Acid House), described it as sounding like a ship's boiler house.

Kevin said he didn't know - he'd never been anywhere like that.

Good grief! Percy knew more about it than Kev!

Maybe Jenny Bradley listened? She kept her musical tastes to herself, with her trendy personal stereo, so it was hard to know just what she was listening to, but she did tell Rita that although her taste in music was eclectic, she didn't like 1970s!

I seem to remember that Sharon Gaskell was quite "with it" for fashion and music trends in the early 1980s, and when Curly Watts looked after Shirley Armitage's little sister in the flat over the Corner Shop, later in the decade, her friend turned up and brought her "blaster" (ghetto blaster) with her, and we actually heard some Hip Hop and saw some body popping!

My flabber was well and truly gasted!!

So, back to the main theme, clothes fashion-sense. Who scores honours as up-to-date young and trendy geezers and geezettes in our grotty backstreet of the 1970s and 1980s?

Well, for the 1970s it must be Suzie Birchall - beautifully cynical - she actually looked like a hard-faced '70s baggage - and managed to progress fashion-wise into the 1980s upon her return in 1983, actually looking like a hard-faced '80s baggage.

Of course, there was more to her than that. She was a gloriously complex character for one so young.

We love ya, Suz!

For the 1980s, it has to be Kevin and Sally Webster. I had a bouffant mullet and 'tache just like Kev's from around 1983 to around 1986, so it has to be deemed wonderful, and Sally's grasp of '80s female fashions - bulldog clips, shoulder pads, Minnie Mouse hair ribbons and crinkly perms - was second to none. TV critic Hilary Kingsley described her in 1988 as always looking: "young, fresh and fashionable."

Good on ya, Sal!

Hard to suppress a snigger with the benefit of hindsight, isn't it?

Mind you, seeing so many 1980s fashions back on the streets over the last five years or so, I do feel an occasional urge to adopt my old Miami Vice style...

I've still got that neon blue shoulder-padded jacket and cerise mesh vest stashed away...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

1988 - Emily Bishop - Nosy Parker?!

A chance remark by Emily Bishop set this story rolling. Trying to sleep in the front bedroom of No 3, Coronation Street, she was sometimes disturbed by next door neighbour Don Brennan, arriving home in his taxi in the early hours of the morning. The sound of the car engine and the slamming of the car door often drew her from her slumbers.

It was never a good idea to say anything much at all about anything to Percy Sugden, Emily's new lodger at No 3. Especially when it came to problems. But when Emily let slip her night time difficulties in passing, he immediately set out to remedy the situation.

Percy had often noticed that Don's parked taxi overlapped from the space outside his own house into Emily's parking space, and so he immediately painted "NO PARKING" on the pavement, with two lines to mark out No 3's parking space.

On hearing of the problem he was causing, Don was sympathetic, and promised Emily he'd be quieter.

He and Ivy were, however, both annoyed and amused to see Percy's pavement etching, and Don said he'd get his own back...

The next morning, Emily emerged from No 3 to find a gaggle of factory girls outside, all laughing at the pavement! Percy's "NO PARKING" had been crudely altered to "NOSY PARKER". Emily was furious. She hadn't even been aware that Percy had daubed the pavement in the first place. She called him outside. "We've been vandalised!" squawked Percy.

Emily insisted that Percy removed the offensive lettering from her pavement immediately. Percy was, as always, sympathetic - and, in fact, quite outraged on Emily's behalf: "I can understand you being upset. There's no truth in this at all. You're no nosy parker, not in my book - and if anybody ever said you were..."

Emily could hardly believe her ears: "This is not aimed at me, Mr Sugden - it's aimed at you!"

Percy was deeply saddened. This wasn't the first time he'd encountered the bizarre female tendency to delude themselves when it came to any unpleasantness, but still, he'd thought better of Mrs Bishop.

However, he remained gallant: "I wouldn't think so, no, but if that's the way you want to think about it, Mrs Bishop, so be it."

Emily told Percy that she was going to work, that she wanted to see the pavement clean when she returned, and that she wanted no reprisals carried out against Don Brennan or anybody else Percy suspected of committing the deed. She would brook no argument!

As it happened, Don wasn't involved in the pavement daubing exercise. And if Percy had glanced down the street as Mrs Bishop stalked off across the road to Baldwin's factory, he might have gained more than a small clue as to who the miscreant actually was.

As Jack Duckworth later confessed to Gloria Todd, it was him.

He'd nipped out in his "jim jams" early that morning.

It had been too good to resist.

Percy never did catch the culprit.

And he was greatly disappointed to discover the attitude taken by Mavis Riley, apparently Mrs Bishop's best friend, who seemed completely unruffled and deluded regarding this outrageous slur against her.

Like Emily, Mavis told Percy that she believed the "NOSY PARKER" slogan referred to him!


You wouldn't credit it, would you?