Thursday, 31 July 2014

1982: A New Regular At The Rovers!

Here's a lovely Express and Star newspaper cartoon from May 1982, featuring Albert Tatlock, Bet Lynch, Len Fairclough, Hilda Ogden and... could it possibly be...!!! HRH the Queen (with attendant corgis). 

"Oh, she's been a regular since last Wednesday!" says Bet.

So, what was that all about?

Well, the Queen had just officially opened the new exterior set of Coronation Street. Work had commenced in November 1981, and the set had been completed in 1982. It remained in use until the recent move.

The 1982 set was a vast improvement on the old, which had no chimneys and had been built in a strange dislocated fashion that looked nothing like real houses when viewed from the side.

Or certain other angles.

Try viewing footage of the sale of Minnie Caldwell's house from 1976. As the camera closes in on the "For Sale" sign,  Emily Bishop's bedroom net curtain next door is fluttering in the cold breeze and there is a glimpse of scaffolding and sky behind it.

HV Kershaw wrote of the 1982 set: At last we had a real street!

It was larger, more life-size than the old, had a proper roof and back, and fibre glass chimneys with TV aerials fixed to them. The cobblestones were also properly aligned with the fronts of the houses. It was brilliant.

But the 1982 set also had one other major difference from the old frontage, established in the late 1960s, and that was the lack of graffiti round about, and smashed windows above the viaduct arches.

Was the Street going upwardly mobile? If so, 1982 was a little early in the decade.

It has to be pointed out that the old exterior looked more rundown and downright seedy than the production team intended as it had become a magnet for weekend vandals, who did a great deal of damage and left some pretty grotty evidence of their visits to be cleaned up.

Of course, the Street did go "upwardly mobile" as the 1980s progressed, with both the Rovers and the Corner Shop being refitted midway through the decade and the new side of the Street being built in 1989. 

And 1989 also brought us the Duckworths' stone cladding.

Dead posh, eh, chuck?

But back to 1982 and the featured cartoon: I had to smile on noticing the "Rovers Return Vs Crossroads" darts match poster on the Snug partition. Crossroads, the Midlands-based motel soap, was the Street's main rival back in 1982. No EastEnders.

Flamin' Nora! Haven't times changed?

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Pat Phoenix - "It's The Elsie Tanner In Me!" - 1966

Lovely Pat Phoenix was a legend as the Street's Elsie Tanner. We've found an article written by her from The Weekly News, March, 1966. Pat and Elsie were, of course, already national figures by this time. Here are some extracts from the article...


The trouble with me is - I'm a straight talker. I can't pay lip service. I've got to mean what I say. What's worse, now and then I can't resist a "grand gesture". When I see a scene building up, my sense of the theatrical gets the better of me.

Couple the two together and you can see why I spend a good half of my life up to my neck in hot water from one cause or another.

There was the time I was playing in pantomime and the manager added some extra matinee performances.

We all thought we should be paid for doing them. The manager dragged us all into his office and read us a long lecture on the ingratitude of actors.

They were fine when things were going well, he told us. But when a show was making a loss you didn't find any of them coming along and offering him a fiver.

I couldn't resist. I was carrying my unopened pay packet. My pay for the last week's show.

With a dramatic sweeping gesture I handed it to him. The wretch took it and kept it!

I managed to scrape together just enough money to pay the rent and then I was broke.

I'm the sort of fool who gets all hot under the collar about injustice and starts shouting about principles. Once it got me the sack.

I was playing for a company which changed management at the end of season.

The new managers got rid of the other actors but decided to keep me on.

I was highly incensed at what I thought was unfair dealing and said so in my usual forthright fashion.

After standing there like Joan of Arc delivering a lecture on loyalty, I found myself sacked with the rest of them.

On the other hand, I much prefer people to tell me the truth. It may hurt at the time but I appreciate it in the long run.

You can buy flattery but you can't buy the truth.

I lost a trusted friend recently. She told me a lie. It was over a silly thing really. But I'll never believe a word she says again.

I can't tell a lie even to save myself embarrassment. Sometimes I wish I could for my own sake. 

An actress friend usually wore very feminine hats. Then one day she arrived in one which, I thought, made her look dreadful.

She asked what I thought.

I tried to avoid answering, but she insisted, So I told her I didn't like it. It wasn't nearly as nice as the hats she usually wore.

She was a bit taken aback at first. But afterwards she thanked me and told me that at least she got the truth. She'd decided not to wear the hat again.

Usually in a situation like that I wreck something or knock my best china ornament flying or create some other diversion. I don't believe in offending people. I try not to answer, or find some little detail I can admire with easy conscience.

My mother usually tells me she wishes I'd kept my big mouth shut. Which is a bit much. It was her training that brought me up to abhor lies. She considers liars just about the worst thing in the world.

The way I think has a good deal to do with my mother.

Andy interrupts: There was one point about which Pat did allow herself a little lie though, as the article illustrates:

I was born at Portumna, Co. Galwey, though I came to Manchester as a small child.

In fact, Pat was born in Manchester. So, why the untruth? According to Wikipedia, Pat was later to explain that her mother had given her birthplace as Portumna in an early interview, and Pat hadn't wanted to contradict her! Perhaps it was also true that Pat liked the idea of being born in Ireland, and thought this added to her romantic image. Although, of course, our Elsie was as English as fish, chips and mushy peas!

More 1960s Pat soon.