Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Life Of Fame

Here's me, back in my heyday. I had a bit of a sniffle when that was taken, but I don't think it shows.

I was right surprised when I was approached by the Esso Blue people to front their telly adverts. That was around 1957. They said they wanted an 'everyday bloke' as their public face and that's just what I was. The first advert was shown in 1958. I was so nervous during filming, that the first thing I said when the camera started rolling was 'I'm the Esso Blee dooler!' and that's not what I should've said at all.

But they liked it, and they put it in an ad later.

I suppose I was, I think the word is 'overawed', by it all - the lights, the cameras, all the people in that studio. I went all pimply and felt a bit uncle dick. I could feel my knees knockin' together.

But they were all very nice about it, and the first ad only took ten 'takes' - which is a technical term for how many times it takes you to get it right.

They didn't want anybody trendy, which was lucky because I was a bit too long in the tooth to be a teddy boy. Wouldn't've wanted to be anyway, because some of them round my way were a bit on the yobby side, to be honest.

But youth will 'ave its day.

They all turned out to be nice lads - Alfie Wainright retired in 1998 as manager of the Tesco's near us, after thirty-three years in the post.

But he was all margarine quiff and attitude back then.

Anyway, the telly adverts ran for years, I was on advertising signs and in newspapers and magazines too, so I got a bit famous - I was asked to open fetes in my neighbourhood, and people pointed at me in Fine Fare.

Of course, we heard a lot about the likes of the Beatles, Hank Marvin and Cliff Richard, who got carried away with their fame and went a bit wild from all accounts, but I always kept me feet on the ground and I never met people like that anyway.

I did meet Mr Mix from Nesquik, and he was a nice enough chap, off-screen.

Sometimes, I had requests for autographs, and I remember once on the Golden Mile bein' told I was a 'dish' by a woman in a psychedelic kaftan - but my Missus stepped in and said: 'Clear orff, you daft hippie bat - whatever have you been taking?!'

And that was that.

I got an agent called Wilfred, who was based in what my Missus called 'the nicer part of Salford', and he got me an audition. I wondered what I might be like at drama, but he thought I should try for Crossroads.

It was the part of a grotty old poacher who got on people's nerves.

I said to Wilf: 'Can you see ME as a grotty old poacher who gets on people's nerves?'

And he said: 'Yes'.

So, off I went to Birmingham.

But the producer said my nose was too big and kept going off-camera when I had close-ups.

I lost heart after that.

I got really excited when Esso told me I was to make a flexi-disc about going round the world. But it was all done in a recording studio in Warrington. Still, me and the Missus used the money I earned to 'ave a nice weekend in Llandudno, and the waitress at our hotel had seen me on the telly and warned us off the egg and bacon flan. So that was nice.

I remember being asked to open a couple of shops. One of them was what you'd call nowadays a vintage or retro clothes shop, but in those days we called it 'second hand'. It was called 'Az Nu' and was in Porrington Street, where the pork butcher's used to be. It's been boarded up for years.

The other was a branch of the 'Pick-A-Snip' supermarket on Commercial Road. When they opened their next branch, they got Ken Dodd to do it.

I don't think fame changed me. My Auntie Gladys said: 'You're as daft on telly as you are off,' and Mrs Potter next door said, 'Once a pillock, always a pillock.'

'I think there might be a touch of jealousy there!' I told my Missus.

'If you say so,' she said.

See you soon,


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