Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Making a film on the cheap - again.

This is going to look familiar to my very very very faithful readers - and I know you're there! I found the newspaper clipping, above, which is from November 1st 1988 - my wife's birthday, would you believe. It's a clip from the Business Section of the Northampton Chronicle & Echo and when I found it - well my wife found it and didn't recognize it was published on one of her birthdays. It was also the birthday of Mary Sullivan my grandmother - so how's that for a coincidence? By the way, my brother's wife has the same birthday as my mother and - even more coincidental - Mary Sullivan's parents have the same first names as my wife and myself. So how about that?

This always made me laugh as every word in it is true. A friend read it when I published it in February 2011 and said 'how will that guy feel if he reads that' - well he probably won't and in any case I didn't say anything derogatory.

I had a good response to this post from would be film makers who were very grateful as they said the learned a great deal.

I made a film once in which I was involved from writing the script, acting and directing in it to putting the china graph marks onto the cutting copy to denote where I wanted cuts, fades, wipes or whatever on the negative.
Then I had to sit and grade it in the studio to make sure the colours were consistent and then take it to Cannes to try and sell it as a pilot for a TV series.
The story was about two antique dealers from the bottom end of the market who find a valuable item at Portobello Antiques market in London, sell it after a lot of negotiations and then lose it before getting paid.
Just a bit of fun, really, but people liked the two lead characters and thought they would look good if the short film was made into a TV series; so I was asked, by a film distribution company, to write some outlines for future scripts before setting off to Cannes - in between helping the sound editor by plying him and accompanying him with many a glass of Guinness; it's a wonder our livers survived.
This might sound a bit like a one man show but there were a lot of others involved and I sorted out a way to pay for it - eventually.
When I was working at the theatre in Northampton, I bumped into a business man on the train coming up from London, who was a big fan of the theatre. He took his wife to every play and invited us to his big house in Northampton one of the nights after the show for dinner.
I stayed on living in Northampton after finishing the season there and lots of times, when I travelled on the train to and from London, I would meet the same businessman.
We would talk of plans for the future and one time I told him of my wish to make a film of my own. He said he would fund it and he said he could easily do it as a tax write off.
So I set about writing the script based on a true incident from the antiques trade which we dabbled in – and still do.
I had directed before when someone asked me to take over on a film so I contacted the director of photography from that film, the DP, and showed him the script.
He wanted to do drama, as he had been specialising in documentaries up to then so away we went; I would get the actors and he would get the crew.
To get everybody to work for nothing we gave the crew a rise in rank; somebody new would be the clapper/loader, a clapper/loader would go to camera assistant (focus puller) a camera assistant took the job of a camera operator and the DP became the DP on a drama as opposed to a DP on a documentary.
The sound was a different story; I had to use about three of four sound people on the film.
When a documentary is planned they hire their DP and he or she would choose where they would hire the camera, lenses and camera equipment from; so we went to a camera house in London and on the promise that he would use them for his next paying project they let us have camera and equipment for nothing.
I told him about the businessman and the fact that he had a very photogenic house which he might let us use for the film.
I had to buy the stock; this is film for the camera, tape for the sound and mag-stock which is what you transfer the sound to edit in an editing machine which is the same size as the film and we planned to shoot on sixteen millimetre.
Shooting on film was and is very expensive as opposed to shooting today on Digital which is relatively cheap.
The two music videos I shot over the past few years were shot on Digital and cost virtually nothing.
The other thing about digital is that you can play it back as soon as you shoot it but the only time you can do that with film is with a video assist – invented by Jerry Lewis – and we didn't have that kind of money; in fact we had no money at all.
I opened an account with the Rank Organisation – J. Arthur Rank of the famous rhyming slang activity – to process the film we shot and the rest of the stuff was begged or borrowed as with the camera and the actors worked for food; even though the crew ate it all – I'm joking I'm sorry.
I remember one of the days I took everybody out for a meal in Northampton and, when they ordered everything, I went to the lavatory to count the money in my pocket to see if I could pay for it.
I hadn't counted on going to a restaurant as I had laid food on for them back at my house – where we shot some of the film – but off to the restaurant they all trotted.
When I counted what was in my pocket I found I didn't have enough so I went back to the table and watched everybody eating and asking for more and maybe more wine and what about a pudding? – ha ha ha ha, they were laughing and having a lovely time and there we were; me and the crew, the actors had gone back go London, and I kind of sat there and looked at them having a good time wondering how I was going to pay for it.
Excuse me” I said and I went out; I stood there in the street and wondered if I should just go home – but I'm not like that.
I tried my ATM card at the bank over the street but it was declined so I found a phone box and called a friend who didn't live very far away; luckily he was in and met me in the street with a hundred pounds which was enough to pay the bill.
Yes you're right; what happened to that businessman. That's what we were thinking!
The last time I met him on the train I told him I was going ahead and he was very excited but when we were about to start I found him hard to get hold of; his secretary took a few messages but he didn't return any of my calls so I went around to his house and knocked the door.
He had a huge glass door and when I rang the bell I could hear his children playing in the hall; then I could see them as they were looking at us through the curtains; but nobody answered; I got the message.
I had shot the whole film, I owed the Rank Organisation money and when I took some lights back I was told that money was outstanding on them so I paid that.
My daughter's boy friend's father had let me use his big van for the shoot for nothing, so I didn't owe any money there but I did owe everybody in the movie to get it finished.
A few years earlier I did an award winning student film so I contacted the editor to see if he would be interested in editing my film and he said he would do it at the cutting rooms at the film school in Bournemouth but I would have to pay him; so I did; six weeks wages as he could only do it part time.
It was then finished at the cutting rooms at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington – but they didn't know about it; sorry RA. We would climb over the gate and creep in to the editing suites after the pub closed at night and do it then and it was eventually finished up to a rough cut. The editing and paying the editor cost more than the rest of the film, apart from the stock, even though I didn't have to pay for the use of the equipment.
My solution to funding the film was the same as any, and probably every other, businessman in the UK; an overdraft! So I booked an appointment with the bank manager.
This I did and he gave me an overdraft; with this I paid Rank and anybody else who needed paying and went to see the distributors; they let me use their cutting room for free for the sound editing and that's when I called my pal Giles and we gave our livers the Guinness test.
So I was bound for Cannes to try and sell the thing as a series. The distributors were involved in trying to get funding and set up loads of meetings in Cannes – and what a time that was.
I was asked if I would change the casting of the other character in it for an actor called Iain Cutherberson who was well known; the distributors had a connection with a Scottish TV company and as he was Scottish they wanted him in it.
But it wouldn't have worked; I promised my friend that he would be in it if we actually made the series but in any case I am about 5'9” and Iain Cutherberson was 6'4” - the dynamic would have changed. It wouldn't be about two fellas trying to make money out of antiques – it would have been about the long and the short of it.
At the end of the day we didn't get the series made; a series called Perfect Scoundrels was taken up by Southern TV, one of the people we were talking to, which was about two other guys on the make and which was very good I have to say.
My film sold to Finland and other Scandinavian countries but I didn't see a penny – that's show business.
The bank wrote off the overdraft and I came to Hollywood.
One night I went to the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) on Sunset Boulevard for a short stack of pancakes and coffee. As I sat there I noticed someone looking over at me; he was sitting with his friend and eventually came over.
Are you Chris Sullivan?” he said.
Yes” I said “and I know who you are.”
It was the rich businessman from Northampton.
I didn't hold a grudge so I joined them at their table.
I'm sorry to let you down” he said “I was going through a bad patch.”
That's okay” I said “but you could have answered your door!”

I re-cut the film - The Scroll - a couple of years ago so it's shorter than the original version and here it is https://youtu.be/WpWmesv5nVA

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Big Light.

This is another one, written in December 2016, which is being read again by quite a few people. I don't know why but I thought my regulars might like another look - and some news ones too, I hope.
I remember many years ago – many many years ago – when I was about 20 and still living at home; in fact I was 20. We threw a party and when we threw a party we really did; plenty of ice cream, jelly, custard, cake and lashings of ginger beer!
Well no it wasn't exactly like that; it might have been the year when I had my picture – in full colour – on the front of one of the local newspapers in fact it was, I just looked it up.

There it is, above, and the others in it are my brother (left), a pal called Dave, and the one on the side of the pool was a workmate of my brudder. You've probably seen it before.
I am the one with my mouth open – I had just got in to the pool and the water was cold, hence the grimace which the photographer caught at the right moment which is why it was promoted to the front page. Scene stealing even at that age!
The girl that I ended up with, for a short while anyway, was the one on the left, of the 3 but unfortunately I have forgotten her name. We only went out together for a very short time in any case.
The photo was taken in Wales and we didn't know the girls till this photo was taken but found out that they lived in the same city as we did – Birmingham so dated them there.
Now that was a big digression as it's nothing to do with the party I opened with but I would like to say no I haven't saved the newspaper for all these years, Dave (from the photo) gave me a copy when he came with a few friends to see one of my shows when I came over from Los Angeles to London about 10 years, or so, ago.
So back to the party: as we were living at home we had the party when les parents went out for the night.
Booze was bought, plenty of finger food, the lights were low and various guests sat around in the salubrious surroundings of our sitting room. Music played, not loud rock, but mood music and maybe that was even by Glenn Miller and maybe it was Moonlight Serenade as I had seen all Jack Lemmon's movies in which he was invariably in a bachelor pad in New York, bringing girls back to seduce to the sweet strains of Moonlight Serenade or similar music.
It was in the days when smoking was fashionable and the room was full of smoke and a great ambiance was created.
Saxophones played, trombones augmented and there was a great trumpet solo but out of the corner of my eye I noticed the door opening and a hand moving to the light switch – YES!!!!
The ambiance disappeared as quickly as Sunderland supporters exiting from the football stadium whenever their team was losing.
Mam and Dad stood in the door frame; their evening out had been cancelled and my dad would always have to have the big light on – I don't know why he put it on at that moment but he probably thought that teenagers and their parents were supposed to annoy each other and THE BIG LIGHT would do the trick.
It certainly did.
The party broke up and everybody went home; they started to troop off as soon as the television went on and I think we went to the pub.
Now at this lofty age I empathize a bit more as the older you get the harder it is to see in the dark; salubrious lighting is good to watch TV but not to read.
Many years have gone by since then but at that precise moment, the moment when my dad touched the light switch, he was in charge; he was the main man and the man of the house and all that the 1960s stood for; he wanted to come home and be comfortable and get everybody out. He liked a party, a drink and a sing song but not our kind of party.
Since then he saw the big light in the sky and drifted towards it and so did my mother when they both shuffled off their mortal coils.
I often wonder what they would have made of the Internet and the Intranet and the iPads and tablets and all the other paraphernalia that has made nearly all GPs in this country prescribe Vitamin 'D' tablets to most of their patients due to the lack of sunshine and fresh air.
What'll be next? Rickets?
2016 has been a year of the BIG LIGHT for a lot of famous people. A lot of pop singers, actors and other notorious personalities but have you ever asked yourself why?
Well in the 50s right up to the mid 70s in the UK there were only a few channels on television. And up until 1967 there were no network pop music stations. Pirate radio existed, of course, but you needed to live near the coast to hear them, as most of the stations were on ships surrounding the British Isles.
The other source of music came from squeaky Radio Luxembourg.
Popular at the time was music by artists born around the 1930s; that was 86 years ago. Those artists became more famous than any of the artists before or since. These days there are so many outlets on TV and radio that you can become really famous in Wales, or Yorkshire or even Scotland and Ireland and nobody outside those areas will have heard of you. I mean who is the most popular deejay in any of those places?
Before the 50s and people like James Dean, teenagers were insignificant, in fact it was said that James Dean was the first teenager – even though he was in his 20s.
There was a sudden change when teenagers had more disposable income than in the past. In the UK their parents had no disposable income – get up, go to work, come home, cook and sleep. Then the same the next day – I repeat NO disposable income. The average Joe Bloggs would put everything on the never never; hire purchase, terms – you name it. It is all described in the excellent novel Live Now Pay Later by Jack Trevor Story. I got to know Jack very well in the 70s and later played his father in a TV series calledJack on the Box – he was a chancer and a bankrupt and just the kind of person I like.
Jack Trevor Story.
So for the next so many years we are going to say goodbye to all our heroes if they were born in the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s – sad but true. One or two will last longer and one or two will die younger than average.
I mean Jerry Lee Lewis is around 85 and so is Little Richard!
The first baby boomers were born around 1945 and even though we are living longer and crashing into prostate cancer and/or dementia we will all be gone by the time Halley's Comet comes around again.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Dublin 1922 - again.

This is something I wrote in 2015 and I have noticed that it's been getting a few hits recently. So I had a look and re-read it myself - and as I found it interesting I thought it needed another outing; so I hope you enjoy it and think it worth it.

The Siege of the 'Four Courts' Dublin 1922
It's been 24 years since my dad died and on the day he died I had to drive up to my parents' bungalow in Northampton.
Now for my American friends who have a different meaning for the word bungalow, I have to explain over here it means something different from over there.
The word comes from India, as do so many of our words: shampoopundit etc, in fact bungalow is a Hindi word which, I reckon is the most popular language in India; Roman Hindi, I would say, as far as I remember, and the Indian meaning has it as a single storey house, surrounded by a veranda – that sounds Indian too doesn't it.
Over here it's just a single storey house - just like the 'Craftsmen's Houses' in Los Angeles.  
My mother suffered from Parkinson's and very bad arthritis, in fact she needed constant looking after and up to that time had been cared for by my dad and as is usually the case, the carer died first – and he did.
Dropped dead one day, as we say brown bread.
My dad died in March, one day before his birthday, and the time between that and the date she moved in with us was under seven months – but it seemed like a year and a half.
I would stay with her a couple of days a week and our daughter would look after her when I wasn't there – but she couldn't be left alone as she would try things like getting up out of her chair and falling.
So I would sleep in the bed next to her – they had a couple of twin beds.
They were the same twin beds that my brother and I slept in as teenagers but instead of looking over and seeing the brud – I saw the mater!!
Most nights she would talk in her sleep. 
Even though she had Parkinson's she had very clear speech and a very attractive Dublin accent with a huge vocal range.
Some of the nights she went back to 1922 Dublin when she was Esther Tuite – or Essie, as she called herself.
She would call out in the middle of the night things like 'I'm only looking – I live here; no I'm only looking. I live here – Parnell Street!'
'Okay, okay – I'll get back in.'
I knew she was back in 1922 and I knew she was troubled.
After she came to live with us I went in to her room one day and she was in a coma; I couldn't wake her.
I called my wife, who was a nurse at the time, and we called the doctor who called the hospital and an ambulance came and took her away.
I went with her, of course, and eventually left her in their care.
The next day I got an early call from the hospital telling me to come in as the position had turned worse.
On the way there the radio played Louis Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World' and the weather was beautiful and even though I had already liked the song it has meant a lot more to me ever since and every time I hear it I think of that day.
When we got there she had 'come around' and for some reason she was walking.
She had a twinkle in her eye as she came and sat with us and I asked her who she was and she said 'I'm Essie Tuite of Parnell Street.'
She said that as if she was wondering why I had asked it; and why shouldn't she; she seemed very cheeky and flirty and I kind of got to know that side of my mother a bit; I was looking forward to meeting her again but she went back into a coma a couple of times, introducing me to other aspects of her inner personality and history and when she was discharged she was, more or less, the same as she had been before she went in - only this time she couldn't walk at all.
I told her all about the Essie Tuite history bits and she told me the following. 
Because I am the way I am and I doodle I aye, I wrote a lot of it down and even used some of it in my first novel Alfredo Hunter: the Man With the Pen.
I often felt a bit of a cheat but as it seemed to catch the Dublin dialect and accent together with an eye witnessed account of the facts of the time, one of the most important times in Irish history, I don't feel guilty at all.
If you have any kind of artist in the family – writer, actor, painter and the like, you are bound to be used and you'll know what I mean.
Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent but – they were all innocent, let's face it.
She started off by telling me how she met my dad.
We met at McCann's pub. I was outside with Maura Short sheltering from the rain and he came out and told us to move on. He was working in there as a barman. There wasn't a pick on him. He was just like number one.”
She held one finger up.
He was an awful looking yoke. It was just after I left home. My father was a bastard. Here was I at twenty five and he wanting me in by ten-o-clock. I moved in with Maura Short. They were looking after me.
My father was in the British Army and knew nothing about the Easter uprising - he was away getting gassed. (In the Somme) I remember everything about it; the lot. 

People don't believe me, you know, but I do. I remember the Fourcourts.

I think it was the IRA that was in the Fourcourts...think it was...... They came and knocked the door – the British army - and told us not to be frightened of the bomb. Anyway ...my mother said – ‘Oh Jesus, Mary and Joseph: you're not going to kill the poor men that's in there?’
They said ‘Well if they don't come out - and it's war missus - we'll have to.’
They never came out; they were blown up - and what was left of them put their mate on a stretcher - the door it was a door it was - and they walked down Parnell Street to the Castle. They were singing:
                      We fight for Ireland,
                     Dear Old Ireland
                    Ireland Boys away.”
And the British soldiers were all on edge but they never touched them. They carried their oul' comrade - wouldn't let one of them touch them, like you know? I couldn't have lived anywhere else worse than Parnell Street when the nineteen hundred and....when the troubles were on.”
She sat there thinking and I could actually see a thought enter her head by the expression on her face; then she laughed.
We had - in Parnell Street - it was the one yard for the two houses and it was a door that went through to the yard and over the wall you went and you were at a hill and you were away.
This bloke was standing at the door - Parnell Street, you know - and another bloke was with him and ran away shouting ‘British Bastard’ and with that the what-you-call-him? - The Black and Tan followed and, of course, he disappeared over the back. But the Black and Tan came straight up through the houses - never knocked on the door - just opened it. Could be standing there in your nod for all they cared. They said ‘Hello Pop’ - of course my grandfather being old with the beard.
My father was a British soldier at the time and they thought we were all British. And my father's father had a red white and blue flag hanging through the window; they all stuck flags out. The old bastard was in the British army my father; but he used to come home on leave and go across to the pub with my Uncle Stephen and my Grandfather.
Uncle Tom was posh; he only used to drink wine; port wine. And he used to wear spats on his shoes; he was the posh one of the family. And if they had have done right with him he would have been a millionaire today - if he'd have lived.”
If he’d have lived he would have been a hundred and forty.” I said.
She laughed again and started to cough; I gave her a drink of water. She took a drink and carried on:
He started a factory. Done a lot of pinching out of the other factory - my Grandfather owned a part share in it - Lymon's - and they were starting their own place: Lymon's sweet factory in O'Connell Street. My Uncle Tom was to go out and look for orders. Sure my Uncle Stephen drank it all; he couldn't be kept out of the pub. He was in the IRA and went to prison. Uncle Tom went too but they were in different places.
I have such a good memory - people think I'm mad when I tell them things. Grandfather Shea was in the IRA. He was a proper rebel my Grandfather was. But my father and his father were no bleedin' good. They were oul' feckin' British soldiers.
Grandfather Shea was lovely; he used to keep his revolver on the ledge in his room – the room at our house. It was a bit of luck nobody ever found it.
My father used to whip me and Grandfather Shea found out - 'I'll take his bleedin' life...’ not bleedin' - they never used bleedin' ‘Take his bloody life if you touch her again.’
To my father he said that.”
She paused again and looked into the cardboard fire. Strange the way things were - she had brought with her an electric fire with a cardboard fire effect.
We went to live in Marino when I was ten. Our Kathleen was born - she was born in March Kathleen was and she was a new baby when we went to live in Marino. I remember I had one frock on me all day and Kathleen was a baby in my arms. And my whole frock was stained from where she shit - it wasn't shit - it was just the mark.
The one thing my father did for me – the only thing he ever got me during his life - was to buy me a bike – the only thing he ever did - says he 'I'll buy you a bicycle.'
He brought me into a shop on the quay and says he ‘Get up and ride it.’
I couldn't ride the bloody thing – I’d told him I could ride a bike. And my father went up and down the alley for to show me how to ride.
Kings End Street was another street where we used to go to learn how to ride the bike. One day we were coming down from Capel Street right down to Parnell Street to Henry Street. There was a private car stood there and didn't I run into the bloody side of the car. All I could hear my father say was ‘Get up quick. Come on get up.’
I burst the whole side of the bloody car.” She laughed:
I was the first one in our street to have a bike. But I was never let out to play. The nuns wouldn't let you. You weren't allowed to play in the street.
When my grandfather was the age I am now he lived with us in Marino – one day he had a row with my father. He never liked my father cos my da got my mother into trouble. My Mother was married in August and I was born in the October.
When they had the row my Grandfather got up - he had one of his turns - dying you know - he said ‘I'm not going to live here any more’ and he got a pair of sticks and he walked up to the entrance, you know, and I kept saying and crying ‘Come on home, Granda, come on home;’ The poor fella was dying. They could at least have made him feel wanted.
But he wouldn't come home; he wanted Locky - that was the cabman that he latched on to no matter where he was going. No matter where he was going he sent for Locky; he took us to the boat at the North Wall one day when we were going to the Isle of Mann for a holiday; me and my grandfather. And he got us on the boat and my grandfather told Locky to come and fetch us and pick us up Friday at a certain time.
Poor oul' grandfather didn't know about having to book lodgings. He couldn't get any; we had to come back.”
Such is life.

Sometimes things can be forgotten; little things but once in a while I write things down and when I find them again, years later, they are like pieces of treasure. Try it sometime.

                     Countess Constance Markievicz in Dublin 1922
Countess Markievicz (nee Gore Booth) was a very important figure in Irish History; for a start off she was the first female MP voted in to the British House of Commons - although as with Sinn Féin she never took her seat in the commons.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Brexit - and the lost votes!

I never ever thought I would write a post with Brexit in the title, but here we go with a quickie.
There is a lot of confusion in Parliament at the moment – poor old Donald Trump who has no idea about politics (or anything else) thinks the country is in turmoil; he obviously hasn't been to Zimbabwe and didn't notice anything wrong with human rights when he went to Saudi Arabia; there he is, above: I captured him after he said maybe for the twentieth time the phrase million dollars. That's what's wrong with having a business man running a country – he only talks in dollars.
I said recently, in a very important missive on facebook, that I believe, all the money being used at the moment to pay for the UK to leave the European Union is a waste, if you believe that the majority of the older voters voted to leave.
In ten years a lot of those voters will have shuffled off this mortal coil which will leave a majority, left behind, who voted for remain. 
But it could have been a remain victory if the 40% of the 18-25s, who didn't bother to register had have voted for remain. 
They may, of the youngsters who actually voted, have voted to remain but what of the lost votes?
There is a movement to lower the voting age to 16 or 17 – do I go along with that? No.
I'm sorry but the reason why you see so many gas heads speeding along at 100 mph in built up areas is because of their age. I didn't quite go at 100 when I worked on the motor bikes at that age because my bike didn't go that fast. But I remember how hot headed I might have been. I remember having a race, in the rush hour, through the traffic in Selly Oak opening our throttles and weaving in and out of the traffic. The reason I remember that particular day is that I overtook a truck on the inside and my pal overtook it on the outside lane. Trouble was the truck was turning right and knocked my buddy off his bike. As I got passed the truck I looked around and there he was flying, then landing, and as he landed he slid, spinning around, for about 25 feet. What the who the what do you do now??**^
He seemed okay – he was moving – and in no time the whole place was stinking with cops, an ambulance and crowds. I headed back to the office to report the accident and as I was going back, a man came in to the yard and said 'one of your boys has just had a prang!'
They knew as I had told them. I was told to get on and deliver my telegrams and another boy was told to go and collect the telegrams from the injured lad who was lying on the road – sorry, yes, I prefer lying to laying!
That's really why kids shouldn't have the vote. The brain is not fully formed till nearly 20; schizophrenia doesn't present itself or is diagnosed till at least 19 and later in women; I have given the case for hot hotheadedness etc but I don't think I want the very young voting as they are either clever clogs (like Jacob Rees-Mogg was) or not interested in politics at all. I wasn't interested then and why should I be I was sewing my wild oats, going out dancing, going to the movies, going to the cafe that served bacon and eggs at 3.00 o-clock in the morning and eating fleur-de-lis steak and kidney pies from a chuck wagon on John Bright Street in Birmingham with a load of motor bike kids, Hell's Angels and tattooed tearaways; and why not.
Writing that kind of reminds me that a friend of mine was filming an episode of Star Trek at Paramount and had a heart attack. They took him to The Good Samaritans Hospital and of course he was admitted. The production company sent in a runner to collect his costume and bits of face mask he was wearing – no 'how is he' kiss my arse or nothing; but that's show business!!
I don't know how many wars were in Europe up to the point of the forming of the European Union but not so many since its formation. It was started in 1951 as The Treaty of Paris then it became The Treaty of Rome in 1957. We knew it as The Common Market -in fact that's what I call it to this day – and because it looked like a good idea and seemed to work, other countries joined: the United Kingdom didn't. They tried but France, through General de Gaulle, vetoed their application.
The next application was by Prime Minister Edward Heath of the Conservative Government which was accepted and Britain joined around 1970.
The Labour Party were in administration in 1974 and as soon as they could organise it they had a referendum in 1975 to see it they should remain or leave; Labour campaigned to leave and the Conservatives campaigned to stay.
What a change aye.
One of the recent referendum catch phrases from the right wing – which seemed to be in the leave majority - was that they wanted to 'take back control.'
As soon as they started that it was all over; just like a lot of America catch phrases, usually from the Republicans, which as soon as they were invented or discovered were successful. Remember George W with his fuzzy math and Obama with Yes we can which turned out to be no we can't because Congress just wouldn't let him – so don't think they can't stop Trump.
Yes they can – but they won't.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Some Mothers do 'ave 'em and Me!

In 1973 we moved to Northampton; it seemed near enough to London and only cost £1.35 day return on the train with an extra 16p for the car park – we were actually in a place called Hartwell which is about eight miles from the town centre, and not too far from the Motorway – the M1 – so I could also catch the London train from Wolverton too; plenty of choices.
I hadn't worked too much in 1973 as we had a baby boy in July and after we sold our other house the house we were going to move in to had fallen through so we'd been staying with my parents in Birmingham till we found another.
An actor friend said he knew an actress who was recruiting for a team of people to sell portable central heating in Edgware so I arranged to meet her.
She gave me the usual promises about how much money I'd earn and as Edgware was only a few stops down the motorway I agreed. We had to meet in at a certain place each evening and then attack an estate called Carpenders Park, you go up that way and you go that way, kind of thing. Then we'd meet up and tell her how many appointments we had arranged for her!
There was another guy call Michael Mundell on the job too; he had been in Crossroads (an evening soap opera on ITV) and so had I so when we knocked people's doors in the neighbourhood people recognized us.
'There's a man from Crossroads at the door' was one of the cries then the family would come and look. I thought it was fun; for some reason they thought I would be very rich but the only work I can remember from that year was a Brylcreem commercial and a commercial for Hedex Seltzer – when they came out people would recognize me from those commercials too. I never minded being recognized and signing autographs but I know people who don't like it.
I earned a small fortune from the Brylcreem and a few hundred from the Hedex in repeat fees when they were screened.
In fact I could write episodes about the central heating period, how someone would come to the door and just look at me then go away; then someone else would come and look and as I had cottoned on very quickly to what they were looking at I just played along.
I think I was shooting an episode of Z Cars onece and some old lady came up and said 'Are you filming Budgie?'
Budgie was a TV series with Adam Faith, and I said yes, he's just gone for a cup of tea. People would recognize me from the Guinness Commercial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzzPtypCrUE and I would sign the autograph, Arthur Guinness.
But back to the central heating -the bottom line is I didn't earn any money to speak of apart from £15 basic per week but I didn't sell anything – and neither did Michael.
I looked him up, before I wrote this, and found he died about ten years ago of a heart attack. I know he went to Australia where he wrote and acted so - RIP.
One day I called home and my wife mentioned that my agent had called. Now my agent in those days was a strange woman who spoke very fast and I think had some kind of speech impediment. I had studied speech for three solid years at drama school but could never figure out what impediment she had.
I had to call her back from a phone box and the gist of the call was that she had put me up for the Michael Crawford situation comedy series Some Mothers do 'ave 'em, which was a huge hit at the time, and they had come back to offer me a job.
She told me it was only one line and I said I wouldn't be interested. I don't remember what she said but a couple of weeks later someone from the BBC called and wanted to know where I was and that I was supposed to be at rehearsals.
I told him the story and he said 'well come if you want' so . . . I decided to go in straight away.
I called my agent and she denied or couldn't remember me turning it down and then admitted that I had and said she had told me to turn it down myself but the fee was £45, which was the minimum fee at the BBC, in those days, for a week's work, and I should take it or leave it.
I was getting fed up with the central heating sales, in any case, so I said I would do it.
By the time I got there (North Acton) the rehearsals had finished and I could see through the window Michael Crawford in the rehearsal room talking to the producer/director and referring to the script.
I didn't know where I came in, with regards to the script, but the floor manager told me I would find out the next day at the start of a week's rehearsals.
Yes it was one line which was 'Yes Sir! Three one four.'
The episode was set in the RAF where Frank Spencer had served and the incident was in flashback. Half a dozen RAF men were in the billet, getting ready, etc: cleaning boots, writing home and generally relaxing. 
In comes Frank Spencer and as soon as he came in one of the other lads ad libbed a line 'hello Frank; how's the wife?'
He said the line, which hadn't been written, on every run of the scene for the whole seven days – Hello Frank; how's the wife?
At the end of the little scene the officer enters so 'Stand by your beds' from the corporal and when the officer opens the door he closes Frank's wardrobe just as Frank had stepped into it.
Then the officer calls all our names – yes that's when it comes in Yes Sir! Three one four. Then he says Spencer and Frank's voice can be heard from the wardrobe which falls over and down some stairs and . .
First of all let me explain that my number wasn't necessarily 314 (I'm not that anal) I just guessed that for this.
And that was it. But we ran it two or three times a day for the whole week before went to the TV centre to record in front of a live audience, and each time hello Frank, how's the wife?
Does that sound boring? Well it was. So each time we did it I would pretend to do it the way Marlon Brando might do it by writing my line on my hand and reading it; it was a bit of fun.
Then on the last two days we went in to the studio at the Television Centre. The wardrobe falling down the stairs was very critical as Michael Crawford was supposed to be in it. The first time they tried it the wardrobe fouled on the banister and broke in two.
It wouldn't have been very funny if Michael was in it.
So that was that for the day; outside the studio they were doing Top of the Pops and a pal of mine was working on it so he suggested we meet up for a drink afterwards so I went in to their studio and they were rehearsing – stood next to Roger Daltry as he was waiting to go on and then went for a few drinks in the BBC club. 

After that we went in to the recording and there I am on the left – dear oh dear.
Michael Crawford was very nervous the next day before the audience came in; he must have walked ten miles around the floor but eventually the audience came in and before we shot it he was sitting waiting on the bed and the guy who put his line in came up on to the set and Michael looked at me and said How's the wife? As soon as he saw him.
Well all went well but because I'd been playing around with the Marlon Brando but I kind of fluffed my line as it made me laugh – but I don't think the audience noticed.
There he is (Michael) just landed after the stunt and there I am on the extreme right.

And that was it; it went out not long after that and then a few months later it went out again – so I got paid again. Not the £45 but nearly that much. It was very popular so it went out again – and again and again. Each time it went out the fee was based on the minimum amount that it was for the time it went out so it went up and up.
When I was in LA it was broadcast about twice most years and each time it was broadcast I received the current minimum fee for a week's work. I had a few payments of $900 or so and these fees were all based on the original £45.
It went out this year sometime but I only received about £40 as there is now a new pay scale.
Someone I knew from school – David Rock his name was – contacted me via the Internet. He had left our school when he was about ten as he had moved house and then he went to commercial school, as they were called in those days: they had grammar schools, Art Schools, Technical Schools and Commercial Schools. All gained through the 11+ although the 11+ was not the only chance you had. There was a 12+ and 13+ too.
Eventually David Rock spoke to me on the phone and told me he had always envied me as he would see me ride a post office motor bike along Ladypool Road, where he lived, and I seemed to be having fun and always speeding. Then he asked me something: how much do you get from Some mothers do 'ave 'em each time it was on?
I told him but he didn't believe me.