Wish You Were Here...
In 1976 JJ * was a teenage actor starring in TV blockbuster, Crown Court.
What seemed like a world of glamour soon revealed its dark underbelly, unknown to it’s millions of adoring viewers.
Fearful of reprisals, her memoirs were kept hidden for 30 years, until now….
*not real initials
The year of our lord – 1977.
When the two sevens clashed.
It was a time of heroes.
A time of villains.
A time of stars.
Legends walked the earth – Gods of men inhabited living rooms of the north west each night.
It was a lucky break..
The letter came and I was to be transported to another glittering world.
“We are offering you the part …” it said.
The jewel in the daytime tiara – the cherry on the TV cake.
Crown Court needed a clerk – and that clerk of the court was the 17 year old me.
I was whisked into a world of glamour.
A world where the famous shared the same canteen as the infamous.
To be under the same roof as Bill Maynard, Smithies, Greaves, Lord Winstanley and of course the legend that was Alan Rothwell.
We were in the same stable.
I was now their equal.
Many had passed through Crown Court studios.
Steadman, Cribbins, Blessed had all seen it as a gateway.
A portal to stardom – and I was no different.
Fred Feast, was playing a duty constable but just recently had an audition for Coronation street, to play a lothario barman character in the Rovers Return.
He’d pitched an idea to the scriptwriters that it could be loosely based on himself, and suggested a clever twist for the characters name from Andre Angelino, to Fred Gee.
If it came off, he was going to be a star.
A giant of a man.
Not physically (he was five feet four in his stocking feet) but a leader.
A born leader.
He once offered for me to finish off his shepherd’s pie, in the canteen.
I politely declined – there was only the mash potato crust left –
But it showed I was accepted.
I felt at home.
I was eight months in when it started.
The mood grew edigier, colder.
I sat for lunch as usual with the Cuckoo Waltz crew.
Lewis Collins was telling me how they were looking for someone to play Diane Keen’s long lost younger sister, when there was a noise coming from the car park.
Shelley Rhode stuck her head round the door of the canteen,
“They’ve got Brian,” she yelled,
“Bastards!” said Keen before running to the exit as Roper and Collins quickly followed her down into the car park, where a crowd was now gathered.
Brian Trueman was being consoled by Rothwell as they examined the smashed quarter light of his Allegro estate.
Keen stood pounding her fist into her palm, whilst whispering in Collins ear through gritted teeth.
“What happened?” I asked
“Just an accident”, said John Stapleton, “but no one got hurt”.
Rumours of tit for tat stuff started to spread.
People became more and more unfriendly.
No one seemed to trust each other.
We were late for filming, waiting on Blessed to show, when Gasgoine stuck his head round the studio door passing me a handwritten note.
“University Challenge is next door, Bamber,” I whispered.
“Just give this to Brian, will you”, he snapped.
‘We hit Kieron Prenderville at four o’clock this morning’, it read.
Things began to escalate.
Lord Winstanley had a stool put over his head in the Salsbury, when he’d inadvertently walked in on Langley and Stilgoe out celebrating the release of a Nationwide joke book, ending up temporarily paralysed due to the severe figure-four-leg-lock he’d been entrapped with.
Smithies turned up with a mysterious hand injury which he had to disguise during a week’s run of Granada Reports.
Finnegan had to run for her life from the late night Spar as she was attacked by a dozen schoolkids dressed in PE kit, all wearing netball vests emblazoned with a single Blue Triangle.
Witnesses spoke of the track-suited, grey haired ring leader, giving direction from a safe distance, meaning only one thing;
Ron Pickering was out.
Alliances were forged in desperate acts of self-preservation.
Dinage came with a fearsome reputation and when he and Hargreaves came up for an extended stay, under the bizarre pretence of a How? Live show, no one was fooled.
He owed Chris Kelly big time for the This is Your Life tip-off back in ‘75.
Andrews employed a team of private detectives to do the pre show research, and their methods were questionable to say the least.
Derek Batey swears to this day they were behind a spate of washing line thefts he suffered back in 73.
Dinage and Hargreaves never seemed to grasp the enormity of the situation, and continued to flaunt their presence all around town.
They were out alone down the Oxford Road, in places not safe to be.
The Tomorrows World crew were known to hang around there.
Calling themselves the Tomorrow’s World Alley Troop –
A sick joke if ever there was one.
The inevitable happened.
Dinage and Michael Rodd clashed outside the Dutch Pancake House ending up with Dinage losing a finger and his trade-mark react-to-light rapides disappeared, Rodd mockingly wearing a pair during the closing credits to that week’s Tomorrows World.
It reached the ears of the one person who’d had enough.
Chris Kelly gathered everyone together and delivered the message,
“Judith wants to call a truce"...