04 March 2009

Crossroads Uproar 1981 - Farewell, Meg!

The Sun, June 18, 1981. In her role as spokeswoman for Crossroads, Noele Gordon was absolutely tireless in her defence of the series against the crudities and jibes of an unkind press. In June 1981, Margaret Forwood, Sun TV critic, was on the attack after Noele had favourably compared Crossroads with Coronation Street... 

"Coronation Street is drama while Crossroads is real," said dear, deluded Noele Gordon the other day. 

Who was she trying to kid? 

In their latest bid to oust the invincible Coronation Street as telly's top soap opera, the brains behind Crossroads have knocked down poor old Benny and left him covered in blood and about to be blinded. That should have knocked his hat off at long last! 

Benny, you will recall, is the illiterate local simpleton befriended by beauty queen, unmarried mother and occasional waitress Miss Diane. He was about to be married a couple of melodramas back but his fiancee was knocked off her bicycle and killed while on her way to a clandestine assignation with her gypsy lover on the morning of the wedding. 

Then he offered to wed reclusive plastic surgery patient Alison who had been left in the lurch by former international terrorist-turned-record producer Chris Hunter. 

But she had a miscarriage and decided to become a nun instead. 

Real, Noele darling?

Noele Gordon after news of her sacking from Crossroads was made public.

Whatever people thought of Noele Gordon and Crossroads, there was no doubt that the two went together like bacon and eggs - and had done since the very first episode way back in November 1964.

The announcement that Noele had been sacked from the show exploded upon the media on 22 June 1981. And Crossroads fans were stunned.

The "Save Our Meg" campaign - the Sun, June 24 1981.

Crossroads boss Jack Barton yesterday faced the cast of the TV soap opera for the first time since the Big Sacking Shock.

He saw them for a 20-minute crisis meeting folowing the surprise dismissal of Noele Gordon, the show's top star for the last 17 years.

Mr Barton, the programme's producer, left ATV's studios in Birmingham refusing to comment on the talks or the decision to scrap Noele's role as motel owner Meg Mortimer.

But it is understood that the meeting was called to assure other members of the cast that their jobs were safe.

Rumours have swept showbiz that Noele's departure was only the first of many from the much-loved series.

Noele was in tears before he arrived. But she left smiling, with co-star Tony Adams, 41, who plays Adam Chance in the series.

And later it was confirmed that she had been asked to play the mother of stripper Gipsy Rose Lee in a stage show opening in November at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre...

Sunday Mirror, June 28, 1981: 

Sacked Crossroads star Noele Gordon made a dramatic eleventh-hour plea to ATV boss Lord Lew Grade to save her job. She asked if there was any way she could carry on for a further six months with a new contract. 

But Lord Grade was unable to help. 

He said yesterday that he had put Noele's request to ATV's Director of Programmes, Charles Denton. It was Mr Denton's decision to sack Noele, who plays the motel matriarch, Meg Richardson. 

Lord Grade said: "Noele's agent asked if there was any way for her to carry on. "I asked Charles Denton if it would be possible to consider it. His reply was the he didn't want to change his plans, and that it would be nice to start the next season with something new and exciting. 

"I just put the point to Charles. I didn't ask him to reconsider. 

"I am not allowed by the Independent Broadcasting Authority to interfere in any programmes."

Lord Grade also revealed that Noele had had a massive change of heart about Crossroads. 

"About a year ago, Noele came to me to say that she wanted to leave the programme, but I persuaded her to stay," he said. "She is a very sweet person, and has worked very hard for Crossroads and ATV. But I do not know whether she has any future role in the network." 

Mr Denton, 43, said that since Noele's sacking he had received hundreds of protest letters from fans, among them two death threats. 

One, he claimed, came from the Birmingham chapter of the Hell's Angels. 

"I really didn't know there were such Crossroads fanatics," he said..
. Daily Mirror, 19 October, 1981: 

 Meg Richardson and her Crossroads crew were all at sea yesterday as yet another version of her departure from the TV soap opera was filmed. Meg, played by actress Noele Gordon, waved a fond farewell to her screen daughter Jill, played by Jane Rossington, from the stern of the liner QE2. 

The storyline of the scene, filmed at Southampton, has Meg quitting her motel and emigrating to Australia. 

But it is only one of seven possible endings which have been recorded. These include a fire which guts the motel, and some scenes have shown a funeral. The actual ending is being kept a big secret. 

No one except producer Jack Barton knows the answer - and even he's not sure. "I shall be deciding which ending to use on the day the programme is screened," he said.

Daily Mirror, October 27, 1981: 

Crossroads star Noele Gordon pleaded for her life yesterday. She wants a happy ending when she is written out of the TV soap opera next month. 

So far the veteran star of the serial has filmed five endings - four tragic and one happy. They include losing her life in a motel fire, taking an overdose of pills and a graveyard scene. 

The one that will be finally used is ATV's best kept secret. 

But Noele is hoping her TV bosses will use the happy one where she sails off into the sunset on the QE2. 

She said: "During the QE2 scene the sun started to shine, the flag flapped at the right time and it all looked very pretty. That is the way I want to go." 

Noele started rehearsals yesterday for a leading role in the £250,000 musical Gypsy which opens at Leicester's Haymarket Theatre in December. But she is still bitter. 

She said: "After twenty-six bloody hard years with ATV, for someone to say to me 'All good things must come to an end and we don't want you any more' - well, I didn't like that."

The Sun, 5/11/1981. The article, by Baz Bamigboye, read: 

Crossroads mania swept the nation last night after the TV motel went up in flames with boss Meg Mortimer apparently inside.

Hundreds of weeping viewers jammed ITV switchboards demanding to know Meg's fate.

And some became so wrapped up in the drama that they phoned hospitals to ask about her injuries.

It was a nerve-wracking episode for the TV audience. First they saw Meg - played by Noele Gordon - apparently taking a drug overdose. Then came the fire.

From ATV, the company that makes the long-running series, the message to distraught viewers was: "Keep viewing."

Fans were promised that Meg's fate would be revealed in next Wednesday's show. An executive said: "That is the crunch episode, and people should watch it."

The Sun has already revealed that last night's episode would not be the end of Meg.

And we can now reveal that Sam Hurst, the painter in the series - played by Brian Badcoe - died in the motel blaze after rushing in and trying to rescue Meg.

Producer Jack Barton said: "In the run-up, fans have been led to believe that Sam was going to start the fire, but that is wrong."

In last night's episode, viewers saw Meg Mortimer walk into her room and put some pills on the table, along with a note to her daughter Jill (Jane Rossington).

At the last minute, as the motel staff were enjoying a bonfire-night party outside, Jill glanced around to see the motel in flames. She screamed: "Mum! Oh my God!"

The ending was the signal for viewers to seize their phones.

An ATV spokesman said: "There have been hundreds of calls at ITV stations around the country."

He added that the "whole nation had gone wild" about Meg - whose sacking from Crossroads caused an outcry.

An ATV switchboard operator said: "We've had scores of people crying down the phone, making no sense at all."

Crossroads addict Mrs Lynda Belcher, of Great Shefford, Berks, said: "I wish they hadn't left us in suspense. It's terrible that they are writing Meg out of the series."

The Sun, November 12, 1981.

The QE2 ending was used and Meg sailed away, unaware that the motel was in ashes.

Opposition leader Michael Foot is inspired by the blaze at the motel in this Franklin cartoon, November 5, 1981.

Daily Mirror, August 19, 1983. A brief return to Crossroads for Noele Gordon... 

 Meg Mortimer toasts the bride and groom in a TV scene that Crossroads fans thought might never happen. 

Meg, boss of the Crossroads Motel for 18 years, was written out of the soap opera two years ago. Now, in a new episode, she is reunited with her TV daughter Jill who is honeymooning in Venice with husband Adam Chance. 

Meg, played by actress Noele Gordon, is making two guest appearances in Crossroads. But she admits there are no plans for a permanent return. 

 In 1985, Phillip Bowman took over as Crossroads producer from Jack Barton and planned to bring Meg Mortimer back as what he called a "permanent occasional" character. Plans were well advanced when Noele Gordon, afflicted with cancer, died.


Hampstead said...

Thanks for the very informative info Drew. Had to laugh when I heard what Denton received in the post, ( and rightly so)

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you could change the yellow type-set? I can’t make it out? Great photos and cuttings though. I remember it all so well!!!

Drew said...

Yes, I've changed it to blue! Thank you!