24 April 2009

Emmerdale Farm - The 1980s: The Golden Era Of Amos And Mr Wilks

1980s signed cast cards of Arthur Pentelow (Henry Wilks) and Ronald Magill (Amos Brearly). Here's a fascinating fact: did you know that until the early 1980s UK soap cast cards provided by TV studios were always in black and white?

Ah, those were the days... Arthur Pentelow as Henry Wilks (or should that be
Mr Wilks?!) and Ronald Magill as Amos Brearly. These two ran The Woolpack Inn and shared the living accommodation from 1973 to 1991. A now legendary soap pairing.

Actually there were a pair of Woolpacks, too. The original building was declared unsafe due to subsidence in 1976, so Amos and Mr Wilks relocated to premises elsewhere in the village.

Mr Wilks was a warm hearted retired businessman. Amos was... well... erm... it's not easy to summarise Amos. He was childish. Pompous. Usually rigidly formal. Given to rapid fads and enthusiasms. He was also naive and very good hearted. Underneath it all.

The character of Amos evolved. When he became Beckindale correspondent on the Hotten Courier in 1976, he puffed himself up like a peacock. But it took until the early 1980s before the character was refined and honed to perfection. Watch any 1970s episode of Emmerdale Farm, and I think you might agree that Amos was quieter, more restrained and dour than in the 1980s - when he was gloriously potty, pursuing fad after fad in quick succession, bridling at Mr Wilks' attempts to bring him down to earth and generally being a wonderful nuisance.

1980 was an absolutely pivotal year for the Amos character - with Seth Armstrong leaving The Malt Shovel bar to become a regular at The Woolpack, and Al Dixon joining the cast as Walter, Amos became more animated, fad-ridden and bizarre than ever before!

The '80s were a truly splendid era during which Amos and Mr Wilks story lines abounded, as the show became an all-year-round soap.

Do you remember the time when Amos got into transcendental meditation? The time he went "upwardly mobile" and took up golf with Alan Turner? The time he turned to bee keeping? The time he baked a cake? The time he was cursed by a gypsy? The time...

If all these sound like Amos-only story lines, rest assured that Mr Wilks was always there, advising, trying to moderate his friend's behaviour, and generally suffering!

Fortunately, Mr Wilks had friends elsewhere or he would, no doubt, have gone insane!

Amos and Mr Wilks have a disagreement in 1980...

... and they're still at in 1989. Dolly Skilbeck (Jean Rogers) looks on.

A pain in the neck to Amos was one of his best 1980s customers and arch enemy, Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards). How he loved to wind the big key in Amos' back! In 1980, Amos commented disapprovingly on Seth's loyalty to the Malt Shovel. Seth was just becoming established as a regular character back then, having first appeared in a few episodes in 1978. From 1980 onwards, Seth switched to The Woolpack, and absolutely loved to get under Amos' skin! Remember the time he booked two strippers (and a python!) to perform at The Woolpack - much to Amos' horror? Amos ordered them out and the pub was wrecked by irate customers!

I've recently viewed hundreds of 1980s Emmerdale Farm episodes, and watching Amos reach the peak of his peculiarity, aided by Seth Armstrong and Walter and the long-suffering Mr Wilks, has been a great pleasure.

Seth holding court at The Woolpack in 1983. Walter (Al Dixon) says nowt and concentrates on his ale. Al Dixon first appeared as the silent bar propper in September 1980.

Seth and pal.

"Sunday People", June 9, 1985. Apparently Jenny the donkey's braying could sometimes be heard when the "Emmerdale Farm" crew were attempting to film in Esholt - so it was decided to bring her into the story!

Joint Pipe Smokers Of The Year, 1986.

14 April 2009

Boardroom Blinds At Home...

Snippets from an article on window blinds, Bella magazine, January 1988.

I remember a lot of very attractive window blinds in the mid-to-late 1980s. I favoured some really snazzy red ones for the kitchen of the flat I shared with some friends, but never got round to buying them.

I like this look!

The most famous vertical louvres of the 1980s were those featured on the opening titles of the revamped ITV soap opera Crossroads in 1985.

I recall a rather posh friend of mine replacing her old horizontal blinds with vertical ones c. 1987. If my neighbourhood is anything to go by, there has been a revival of this fashion in recent years.

1982: Invasion Of The Deelybobbers/Deelyboppers/Beeny Boppers/Bonce Boppers/Space Boppers...

June 1982 - Deelyboppers, or Bonce Boppers, or Deelybobbers, or Space Boppers, or... [insert own name for this exciting early 1980s headgear] ran rampant in New York and were about to arrive here...
From the Rock column by Robin Eggar, Daily Mirror, 29/6/1982:
The young lady with the strange growths on her head is not an alien. She's just sporting the trendiest fashion accessory in New York - The Bonce Bopper.
New Yorkers have suddenly started to sprout spring-mounted bobbles, hearts, stars and windmills.
If you want to be one of the first bobble-headers in Britain, I've just had 25 sets flown in.
To win one, tell me who first recorded the Rolling Stones' current hit "Going To A Go Go" in 1966. The first 25 answers drawn from the bag on Monday, July 5, will receive a bonce bopper.
Sadly, Going To A Go Go really wasn't much of a hit - stalling at No. 26, but deelybobbers/deelyboppers/bonce boppers etc, etc, were a wow!
The Sun, 23 July, 1982 - the "Bonce Bouncers" are here!

We've had head-hunters and head-bangers. Now it's the turn of the bonce boppers.

In fact, it's the latest craze to bounce into Britain from America. And it's going to everyone's head.

So, hang up your hoola-hoop, scrap your skateboard and get a head start by wearing a bopper on your bonce.

It's a headband supporting two spiral wire antenna topped with hearts, bobbing balls or windmills.

When we took to the streets with luscious Linda Lusardi wearing a pair of boppers, headstrong young men came rushing up to look at her...

Page three lovely Linda gets bopping...

In August 1982, an article entitled Parting The Forest Of Headbanger Antennae appeared in my local rag (or newspaper!):
It is the latest craze and it has really gone to people's heads...

What is it? Well, here we encounter a slight problem. What are those things protruding from the heads of everyone under 13 years (not to mention a few people over 13 years)?

The answer is not easy. There seem to be as many names for these glittering balls, hearts, stars, feathers and windmills, as there are designs.
"What do you call those headbands with things on?" I asked a girl in one Cambridge fashion shop.
"I don't know," she mused... "Headbands with things on, I suppose."
Round the corner, the street trader who was undercutting the shop by 39p, displayed no such hesitation.
"Beeny (or should it be beany?) Boppers," he said.
Along the street another itinerant salesman had a sign saying "Bouncers," or was it "Boncers"?
In Green Street, Cambridge, a shop named Games and Puzzles calls them Headbanger Antennae. They are also known as Space Boppers and Bonce Boppers.
"The kids seem to make up their own names," said Games and Puzzles proprietor Mr Lester Saunders.
Whatever they are called, they are the biggest thing since the Rubik Cube. Since the start of the school holidays they have proliferated in Cambridge to almost epidemic proportions.
Let's quickly recap on what we learned in the main
1982 blurb:

The oddball headgear was registered in the USA, its homeland, as "Deely-bobbers" (according to 20th Century Words by John Ayto) in 1982, with claim of usage of the name since 1981.

The name (deely-bobbers, I believe) had previously been applied to a children's toy - a type of inter-connecting building block.

Did you remember all that? If so, pop on your deely-bobbers or deelyboppers (or whatever you like to call them), and reward yourself with a quick boogie to your Kids From Fame LP - you deserve it!

Did we like looking like space aliens? But of course! I remember wearing a lovely pair of deelyboppers (as I referred to them) just before Christmas 1982 at my firm's Christmas "do".

What a night! My mother discovered me at one o' clock the next morning, tinsel round neck, deelyboppers bobbing, standing underneath a lamp post and serenading the family home: "Save your love my darling, save your love..."

She's never let me forget it.

The little cherub above, pictured in the "Daily Mirror" in August 1982, won a baby of the year show. Was she wearing the headgear at the time?

An unusual way of wearing deelyboppers - the "Sun", September 1982.

See a 1982 Atari magazine advertisement featuring deelyboppers - here.

13 April 2009

ET - The Extra Terrestrial

Picture the scene - late 1982 and early 1983...

Many of us were going around intoning "ET phone home" and trying to make a BMX airborne.

And all because of a film...
Sunday Mirror, October 10, 1982:

Out of this world. That's the only way to describe the oddest visitor ever to roam the streets of London.

Not really a pretty sight at first stare, with huge saucer eyes in a squashed-up face lined with a thousand wrinkles. But he was a monster hit wherever he went.

The visitor is E.T. - that stands for Extra Terrestrial - and he's the lovable little alien who stars in the latest blockbusting space movie.

The film is not to be seen in this country until December, yet incredibly, everyone seemed to recognise the creature that has touched the hearts of millions of American movie-goers.

They've ET mad in the States, where box-office takings have hit a staggering £160 million and millions more have been made from merchandising. The hysteria is sure to follow in Britain.

Last week the Sunday Mirror introduced ET to London. Not the real ET, of course. We asked comedian Freddie Starr to don an alien look-alike mask to give startled onlookers a preview of what is coming.

Just the chap for the job, Freddie. ET has audiences weeping over his plight. Freddie has fans crying with laughter.

The superstar comic has also seen the film, created by movie mogul Steven Spielberg, and reckons it's wonderful. He predicts: "It will be a huge success when it opens in Britain. The little creature has such a sad face, it will touch everybody's heart," he said.

The Extra Terrific ET is an alien left behind on Earth by visitors from another planet. He meets an eleven-year-old boy who befriends him in his misery.

The Freddie Starr version of ET met earthling kids at Sullivan's Primary School in Chelsea. Needless to say, they were spaced out.

"It's ET. It's ET!" they shouted. Advance publicity in children's comics has told them the movie is on its way.

"He's lovely," said eight-year-old Claire Adams. "I'd love to see the film."

After blast-off from Chelsea our ET bumped into Tommy Steele near Piccadily Circus.

ET Freddie shook Tommy's hand before taking off his mask. Tommy came down to earth with a quip: "Put it back on. It's a big improvement."

Then it was on to BBC Broadcasting House to meet Radio One's very own hairy monster, DJ Dave Lee Travis.

Once he had been bearded in his den, Dave said: "I've a feeling ET is going to be a phenomenal success in this country. I'm very much looking forward to when the film opens.

In Regent Street, ET came eye to eye with cab driver Benjamin Silkin.

"I've had some funny-looking passangers in my time." he said. "But this little fella takes some beating."

Something to tell his cabbie mates - A Close Encounter of the Friendly Kind.

The BMX flew through the night...

Above and below: from the Brian Mills mail order catalogue, spring and summer 1983. Note the ET Speak and Spell.

Love the "ET Phone Home" T-shirts!

The 1982 novel:
He may be wise and as old as the stars but right now he needs a friend. The secrets of the universe can't help him. He's stranded on earth: alone, homesick and afraid.
It is a hostile planet. The police are after him and there's no one who can help... until he meets the children. To them he's a magical being from another world: to him they are unforgettable friends.

The English provincial newspaper article below, from December 1982, reveals how a journalist took three youngsters to the cinema to give judgement on the new sensation...

ET brings out heavy cold symptoms in the audience

After 11-year-old Illyr had seen "ET", he said he had a cold. It must have been a particularly virulent one as so many of us in the audience showed the symptoms at the same time.

The lump in the throat came as the little lost alien, ET, began repeating "home" plaintively while pointing to the sky and by the time he lay dying we were all feeling almost as sick with runny eyes and difficulty in breathing.

The last hour was so heart-rending it made the shooting of Bambi's mother seem as tragic as a sketch from a "Monty Python" film. And we loved it.

There is no denying that at the start the director, Mr Steven Spielberg, had his work cut out to impress my three young companions.

Illyr Pride, Gwendolen Vickers, 11, and Alexandra Alderton, 10, have all seen such favourites as "Mary Poppins" and "Star Wars". They know a thing or two about what keeps their eyes on the screen and not on the clock.

We all agreed that we had been a little put off before we started by the ferocious publicity build up for "ET" the Extra Terrestrial.

Their classmates knew all about the film and wanted to go; some even had ET key rings.

We managed to finish at least three bars of fruit and nut chocolate watching the preliminaries to the main film, including a Pearl and Dean advertisement for ET board games.

Holding our excitement and orange drinks, the title credits begin to roll and we are prepared to share the experience with a widecross-section of adults as well as children in the audience, who only half filled the 900-seat Vic 1 at this 2 pm performance.

The cinema management were not surprised at this low turnout. They expect the queues at the weekend and during the school holidays. The packed houses it is expected to draw everywhere will literally keep open cinemas which have been suffering poor box office receipts.

The Victoria Cinema assistant manager, Mr Trevor Wicks, said: "It will save many. Not us, because fortunately we are already in profit but a lot of cinemas have been hit by the Hollywood strike; there were just no new films coming through. Managers were forced to show re-runs and even films which had been on television."

Struggling managers can quite confidently book their holidays. Any customer resistance created by the infernal racket of "hype" is swept away after the first 25 minutes. By then, my three young critics were totally in love and, perhaps what is more important, in sympathy with the waddling alien who has the appealing vulnerability of a premature baby. Over the top? Go and see it.

Illyr and Gwendolen spent much of the time after the first three quarters of an hour on the edge of their seats. There was as much laughter to be heard as the anguished crushing of drink cartons.

"I thought it had three things: emotion, it was funny and it had very good photography," said Illyr.

"The saddest bit was when he [ET] was dying. I cried," said Alexandra.

"I thought the two bits of flying on their bikes were good," said Gwendolen. "The first time they were flying against the moon he was dying and the second time symbolised life when they were seen against the sun."

Such perceptive remarks show that Mr Spielberg achieved exactly what he set out to. The only criticism of the film, which runs for nearly two hours, was some mumbling in one scene.

All agreed that the most moving moments came when the shared feelings of the human hero, Elliot, and ET are broken during his illness.

Such unaminous verdicts show that ET may be afraid, totally alone and three million light years from home but the film's makers are not.

11 April 2009

Howards' Way

Howards' Way was first broadcast on 1/9/1985. Producer Gerard Glaister said: "Howards' Way is all about brave men and beautiful women, shady property deals and high-powered tycoons with expensive yachts and Rolls Royces."

Howards' Way had at its centre a frightfully posh English family, who were into boating and boutiques. Set in the fictional south coast town of Tarrant, afflicted with such residents as the thoroughly nice-but-boring Tom Howard (Maurice Colbourne) and the ghastly Ken Masters (Stephen Yardley) - who, unforgivably, started a trend for wearing sweaters with no shirts underneath, Howards' Way was lots of fun. The show had a great cast, wonderful clothes, wonderful shoulder pads, wonderful boats, compelling storylines and glorious scenery.

And the marvellous veteran actress Dulcie Gray (who had acted in this country's very first soap opera, Front Line Family, on radio back in the 1940s) appeared as a character called Kate Harvey.

Kate's daughter, Jan (Jan Harvey), was married to tedious Tom, but the marriage broke up when he fell for boatyard beauty Avril Rolfe (Susan Gilmore).

Family woman Jan rebuilt her life, and got involved in the rag trade ("Watch the shoulder pads in that pink jacket - they might need a stitch, actually...."); Tom ran the Mermaid Yard with Avril's father, Jack Rolfe, (Glyn Owen), an alcoholic; Tom and Jan's daughter, Lynne (Tracey Childs), sailed across the Atlantic; and her brother, Leo (Edward Highmore), was the oldest looking teenager on '80s television.


One of the daftest things about the series was the way certain pop singers/groups were heard repetitively blaring out from radios and at discos, parties, etc. The Beeb obviously had a deal going with Brian Ferry/Roxy Music - nobody I knew listened to their music as much as the Tarrant teenies in the 1980s. One piece of Mr Ferry's '80's work, which turned up during a scene depicting a fashion shoot was very fitting. The rest was frankly ridiculous.

Nik Kershaw was heard spilling out of radios and sound systems everywhere for a couple of seasons - he was a little out of date. Go West briefly basked in the spotlight in 1985. In fact, at one lavish open air party scene, the music seemed to alternate beween Nik Kershaw and Go West. When Roxy Music and Robert Palmer were heard at a trendy "club" which resembled a church hall disco, but was peopled with dancers wearing bizarre hyper-trendy clothes, we laughed aloud. But then Auntie Beeb was not terribly in touch with youngsters at that time. We did get a little Hip-Hop, but when the character who was "into it" tried it to Roxy Music, the whole thing became absurd. Back in the '80s, we took such nonsense from dear old Auntie for granted.

The Howards' Way theme charted in November 1985, another production of TV music maestro Simon May. I found the music exhilarating. Mind you, back then, fuelled by Stella Artois and electro pop, I found shoulder pads and hair gel exhilarating, so perhaps my opinion should be taken with a pinch of salt.

The following year, Marti Webb took Always There, the Howards' Way theme tune with a few nice lyrics bolted on to it, into the charts.


Forgive my poking fun. Howards' Way was, and is, a great favourite of mine (having my tongue in my cheek whilst viewing it was an enjoyable part of the experience) and if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it!

Some '80s pals of ours who used to make our Sunday evenings great. Included are Abby, who got preggers and tried to drown herself, became an eco warrior then discovered her father was a heartless yuppie; Polly, mother of Abby, brilliantly bitchy and neurotic; Avril - daughter of alcoholic boatyard owner Jack - she simply couldn't shake off her feelings for the heartless yuppie, Charles Frere; Sarah, who had a flingette with grotty medallion man Ken, causing her husband to commit suicide in a speedboat; dependable Bill, who tried to keep Jack and the Mermaid Yard on a steady course; and Jack and Kate - two of the most lovable older soapsters of the 1980s.

08 April 2009

Emmerdale Farm 1982: The Arrival Of Alan Turner - Saviour of NY Estates!

Joe Sugden was setting up a pig unit and expecting his first delivery on Alan Turner's first day at NY Estates in 1982. "So I'm arriving at the same time as fifty pigs, am I? I hope that's not ominous!" said Alan.

The SAVIOUR of NY Estates? The bungling Alan Turner?! Well, yes, he was! The NY Estates Beckindale operation would have been wound up in 1982 if it hadn't been for our Mr T! The show's production team felt that the NY story-line had run its course and it was time for changes.

In the story-line, NY Estates was a large company with many holdings. Its impersonal ways were to bring the company into conflict with the village of Beckindale.

In the company's early days in Beckindale, we saw poor elderly tenant Nellie Ratcliffe almost evicted from her cottage. NY was a villain!

Then the NY scenario became soapier, as manager Maurice Westrop coped with his troubled daughter, Judy.

After the Westrops' departure in 1980, we saw new manager Richard Anstey take on local boy Joe Sugden as farm manager late in the year. The NY saga moved out of the office to introduce us to the workforce, who were brewing for industrial action. A topical and gritty story-line.

Joe Sugden (Frazer Hines), son of Annie, went to work for Richard Anstey at NY Estates in late 1980.

In 1981, NY moved back to soapier ground as Richard Anstey had an affair with the regional manager's wife - and was then given the boot. Joe Sugden took over temporarily and then, in March 1982, Alan Turner made his debut as manager. The production team decided that all the NY avenues had been explored, so now it was time to try something new. NY would depart from Beckindale.

Richard Thorp, who played Alan, expected to be in Emmerdale Farm for six months:

"But I got such a rapport going, first with Stan Richards as Seth Armstrong, and later with Diana Davies, who played Alan's secretary, Mrs Bates, that the powers that be liked it and kept it."

Mr Turner and Seth Armstrong became one of the show's funniest double acts and Alan's oft-repeated catchphrase "GET OUT, SETH!" was greatly appreciated by viewers.

Alan and gamekeeper Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) became a great comic pairing in 1980s Emmerdale Farm.

Originally introduced as an inadequate, cold hearted swine, it quickly became apparent that there was more to Alan's character. He was lonely. He was unhappy. Under the bombast was a vulnerable man who wasn't all bad. His marriage was just about over. His son, Terence, was an arrogant user. And Alan was actually a bit of a sweety at times.

In 1984 came Mrs Caroline Bates (or "Mrs Bates" as we knew her) - Alan's temporary secretary. "Temporary" was the word - the character was not intended to be permanent - but quickly became so. She saw through Alan's idiotic ranting to the daft little boy underneath and was amused.

Interviewed in 1993, Richard Thorp said:

"Oh, Alan was an absolute stinker in the beginning, he rubbed everyone up the wrong way. The major influence on him was Mrs Bates who was played by Diana Davies. In the very first scene we did together I was losing my temper, ranting and raving, so she sent me up and it came across when we did the scene."

Signed 1980s pics of Richard Thorp and Diana Davies - Richard made his Emmerdale Farm debut as Alan Turner in 1982, Diana Davies arrived as Mrs Bates in 1984.

The scenes at NY were often hilarious, although the corporate story-lines also continued. In 1986, Alan told Mrs Bates that his boss, Joe Sugden, had a filofax - then a potent symbol of yuppiedom - where his heart should be.

NY Estates finally withdrew from Beckindale in 1988, but the man who prolonged its stay - Alan Turner - remains in Emmerdale to this day!

And I remember the days of Alan and Mrs Bates, in the NY office at Home Farm from 1984-1988, as being something of a golden era.

Read more '80s Emmerdale details at The Beckindale Bugle.

07 April 2009

The F-Plan Diet

1982 saw the arrival of Audrey Eyton's revolutionary F-Plan Diet...

According to the book:

Audrey Eyton is the woman who can justly claim to have invented that now popular feature of every magazine stall - the slimming magazine. When she and her husband founded "Slimming Magazine" twelve years ago it was the first publication in the world to specialize in the subject. The magazine was started as a "cottage industry", on practically no capital, because no one else believed there was enough to write on the subject regularly. How wrong they were! The magazine was an instant success and has continued to be the dominating bestseller despite the many rival magazines which have followed.

For many years Audrey Eyton edited the magazine herself, and later became Editorial Director. During their years of ownership (the company was sold in 1980) she and her partner also started Ragdale Hall Health Farm and developed one of Britain's largest chains of slimming clubs. Mrs Eyton continues to work as a consultant to the company.

During her many years of specialization in this subject, Mrs Eyton has worked with most of the world's leading nutrional, medical and psychological experts. No writer has a greater knowledge and understanding of the subject. She has become an expert in her own right.

Great. So what was the F-Plan Diet, then? To quote from the book's introduction:

Over the past years, many claims have been made suggesting that the inclusion of some particular food in a slimming diet would specifically help overweight people to shed weight more quickly and effectively. Grapefruit was a classic example. Grapefruit diets were popular for years. More recently, in an American bestseller, pineapple was invested with those magical weight-shedding properties. Sadly, all these claims in the past were based on fiction rather than fact - certainly not on any established medical fact...

Now, for the first time in the history of medical science, a substance has been isolated about which it is possible to say: "If you base your slimming diet on this food you should shed weight more quickly and easily than on a diet based on the same quantity of any other foods."

The substance is dietary fibre. This is what the F-Plan is all about. The F-Plan diet shows you how to cut your calorie intake and at the same time increase your intake of dietary fibre from the unrefined cereal foods and the fruit and vegetables which provide it.

A high fibre diet was the answer to many weary slimmers' prayers, it seemed. Not only could it help you slim, but it could also prolong your life and help prevent some diseases - the book contained much information about the health benefits of a high fibre diet.

So, how did it work? Back to the book...

... if you follow a high-fibre diet you will find that you feel more satisfied on fewer calories. And more of the calories that go into your mouth will, to put it bluntly, go straight through and down the lavatory.

The F-Plan Diet didn't touch me at first. I barely registered its existence. My family was what might be described as lower working class. To us, eating was something to be savoured and enjoyed (a wonderful, but terribly expensive treat by our standards was Findus crispy pancakes), and diets were faddy, silly and expensive. Like the "eat more brown rice and lentils" nonsense of the hippies in the 60s, diets were absolutely pathetic, full stop.

But the fibre thing did have an impact on me in time. Fibre-related jokes were in common usage by the mid-1980s - like this one: "Do you feel the bottom has dropped out of your world? Eat wholemeal bread and the world will drop out of your bottom!"

"Har, har, har - tha's a laugh, innit?!" I said. But was it really just a joke? Was there anything in this fibre lark? I began to wonder...

In my district, a restaurant specialising in baked potatoes had opened in 1981, pre-dating the F-Plan by a year, and in the mid-to-late '80s the place was packed. There was fibre in them thar skins, ya see!

Before the mid-80s, baked potatoes had been a simple matter of marge and cheese to me - occasionally with a few beans on top. But not any more. The spud cafe had exotic (or so it seemed to me!) fillings like chopped ham and cheese with chives. Having just popped in for a "quick cuppa and a bite to eat", I became hooked on the spuds. The place was a magnet for me by 1986. And I experimented with spuds at home.

Open my cupboard in the mid-to late '80s and you'd find its contents positively bristling with fibre - bran flakes, wholemeal bread, wholemeal rice, wholemeal pasta...

Open the cupboard under the sink and your feet would be submerged in an avalanche of baking potatoes.

As a kid in the 1970s and a teenager in the early-to-mid 1980s, I ate nothing wholemeal. Nobody in my family - or indeed neighbourhood did. But from the mid-1980s on, I became FIBRE MAN!

The F-Plan Diet is a great piece of work. Below are a couple of recipes for fancy baked potato fillings featured in it. Click on image for closer view.

Ah, nostalgia!

For more on changing eating habits for the un-monied classes in the 1980s, see here.

The Pye Tube Cube

From the Brian Mills Spring & Summer 1983 mail order catalogue.

The Pye Tube Cube radio/black and white TV/cassette/digital clock combination - an exciting new concept for the 1980s, launched circa 1982.

These were great - CONSUME, CONSUME! Nah, t'weren't like that in early 1983 when I bought mine. The big booming bit of the '80s was yet to arrive.

The simple fact was that my SERIOUSLY old telly had a horizontal hold so "gone" people on screen looked like eggs on legs, and the wood effect plastic surround was peeling off.

So, I put it out of its misery and bought a Tube Cube from my aunt's mail order catalogue, paying for it in minute weekly amounts.

A Pye Tube Cube ad shown during the first TV-am programme in 1983.

More 1980s TVs here.

Crossroads: Benny Hawkins' 1980s - The Birdie Dance, ESP, A Haunting...

1980 provided some real treats for all the family...

When Benny wasn't working at the Crossroads Motel Garage, nipping into the Tiswas studio next door, fetching a spanner and vanishing for months on end, or appearing in panto, he was making records like this.

It was all too, too tragic.

Paul Henry recalled a story about the 1982 Falklands War in a 1990s Crossroads anniversary TV programme. UK armed forces had apparently nicknamed the Falkland Islanders "Bennys". When Top Brass got to hear about it, an order went out that this offensive practise must stop immediately.

So, the soldiers re-nicknamed the Islanders "Stills".

When one of the soldiers was asked why, he replied, "Because they're still Bennys!"

Charming, what?!

Christmas 1981 - and Benny joins in that year's big dance craze at the Staff Christmas Party. Yep, It's The Birdie Dance...

Poor old Benny - after all his past traumas, the 1980s were turning weird on him. First there were the bizarre glimmerings of ESP, then a more down-to-earth encounter with a King's Oak hooligan, and finally the death of his elderly landlady, Mrs Price in 1983. And Benny KNEW something was going to happen before she died. Now, with Benny alone in the old guest house, the strange noises begin - and then the lights go out...

Legend has it that Benny, last spotted on-screen just before Christmas 1987 and then never seen or mentioned again (the show ended in April 1988), finally disappeared up a Christmas tree.


It's New Year's Day 1983 and what treats do we have on the telly? Emu? Val Doonican?


And what's this - a new series of Dynasty?


With super poised and sexy English actress Joan Collins making her debut?

Double hooray!

The first season of Dynasty had debuted on the BBC on 1 May 1982. The final episode of that season had seen Blake Carrington up to his neck in it, standing trial for murder. A surprise witness was his ex-wife, Alexis, who turned up to testify against him. She was a sinister veiled figure, the first season's cliffhanger.

Under that veil was an extra. But at the start of the next season Joan Collins took the extra's place and it was fun, fun, fun...

Although Krystle, "the ex-stenographer", didn't think so.

Never mind. For us, with our Joan stepping into Dynasty, 1983 got off to a brilliant start.

Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) stands between his wife, Krystle (Linda Evans, right) and his ex-wife, Alexis (Joan Collins). It's a highly civilised piccy, but things soon changed as Alexis and Krystle squared up to each other. Not that moist-eyed Krystle wanted a fight, but Alexis would have tried the patience of a saint - or even Meg Richardson from "Crossroads"...

"Right! That's It! It's into the lily pond with you, my girl!"

"Take that, you absolute hussy!"

Fortunately, Blake happened along and broke up the fight, but, tragically, Krystle's shoulder pads never fully recovered from their ordeal.

Here's Alexis, or at least half of her, in a mid-1980s BP promotion. If you HAVE got her other half, I advise you to give him back. You know what SHE'S like!

06 April 2009

Will Powers: Kissing With Confidence

"When our lips meet, will they fit right?" In a decade of wonderful pop gems, glittering oh-so-brightly is that quirky 1983 hit Kissing With Confidence by Will Powers. But who was Mr Powers? David Jensen's Saturday Spin page in the Daily Mirror, 17 September 1983, has all the details...

Don't be fooled by a new single that's getting a lot of airplay, "Kissing With Confidence" by a certain Will Powers. In a deep masculine voice Mr Powers poses such delicate questions as "Is your breath fresh?"

The surprising thing is that the singer is a She, not a He!

Top American photo journalist Lynn Goldsmith had her voice electronically altered through a gadget called a harmoniser.

Lynn, who has spent her life chronicling the antics of pop performers - she was Bruce Springsteen's girlfriend for a long time - decided to join them.

But it was on the condition that she could hide behind the mysterious Mr Powers.

I can't help wondering about the fun we'll have watching her trying to perform the single on "Top Of The Pops" if it's a hit.

It's already a favourite of Arsenal football club. They play it before their home games.

All together now:

"I put an end to worrying, I learned a way from Will. He taught me kissing with confidence is an acquired skill. When my boyfriends get too hot - I can cool 'em down, now I'm kissing with confidence everywhere in town..."

Mentioned in the clipping above is a Vince Clarke/Feargal Sharkey liaison, which was part of Vince's The Assembly project. The resultant song was It Never Happens To Me.

03 April 2009

Neighbours: '80s Tales From Ramsay Street - Part 2

Charlene Mitchell - Kylie Minogue - as she appeared in an '80s set of "Neighbours" opening titles. Some of us sang "Neigh-BORES!" to the theme tune, but huge numbers of us loved it really. Proof? The monthly BARB ratings for August 1989 show "Neighbours" was at number one with 16.3 million viewers. Incredibly, the 1989 monthly BARB ratings also show that "Neighbours" got 20.1 million viewers in April. Not bad for a "little" daytime show!

Complementing the Carl Ruhen novelisations of the "Neighbours" series storylines were a couple of books based on the past histories of the show's central families - the Ramsays and the Robinsons. Book two, "The Robinsons - A Family In Crisis!" by Valda Marshall (1989) is seen here, and covered the tragic events of 1975 when Jim Robinson lost his wife Anne, just after the birth of the couple's second daughter, Lucy. The cover shows the Robinsons as they were in the late 1980s.

As Shane Ramsay (Peter O'Brien) and Julie Robinson (Vikki Blanche) looked on, Paul Robinson (Stefan Dennis) married a plumber's mate called Terry Inglis (Maxine Klibingaitis). In the past, Terry had been involved with some very shady characters indeed and was plagued by one of them for some time. The "gentleman" in question was one Charles Durham (Ross Thompson). He turned up during Terry and Paul's wedding - his motive to secure an incriminating tape recording which Terry had in her possession. Durham decided that Terry must die, but Daphne Lawrence was nearly killed instead when she borrowed Terry's coat and was mistaken for her. Terry ended up shooting Durham dead. When Paul became suspicious, she shot him too. Terry went to prison and Paul recovered. At least physically.

Embittered by his experience with Terry, Paul immersed himself in a business career with the Daniels Corporation, owned by his grandmother's adopted daughter, Rosemary Daniels (Joy Chambers). A second marriage, this time to work colleague Gail Lewis (Fiona Corke), took place simply to help clinch a deal with Japanese businessman Mr Udagawa (Lawrence Mah). But genuine love grew between Paul and Gail and, despite problems when Gail discovered that she was adopted and Rob Lewis (Ernie Bourne) was not her natural father, plus the knowledge that a baby would be impossible without IVF treatment, Paul and Gail knuckled down to make things work.
But it all ended in tears.
Jim Robinson (Alan Dale) was one of the rocks of Ramsay Street - a respected member of the community, who, with mother-in-law Helen Daniels (Anne Haddy), had brought up his four children after the death of his wife. After a few brief romantic encounters, Jim met and fell in love with Dr Beverly Marshall (Lisa Armytage). The pair married and all seemed set fair for the new Mr and Mrs Robinson, but...

... of course it wasn't. Jim and Beverly's marriage underwent great strain as Beverly's desire to have a child of her own rose to the surface. The marriage also survived a change of actress in the wifely role - as Shaunna O'Grady took over as Beverly. Finally, Jim and the good doctor split up.

Todd and Katie Landers (Kristian Schmidt and Sally Jenson), Beverly's nephew and niece, turned up in Ramsay Street for their aunt's wedding. Their plan to use the occasion to run away and escape their parents, whose marriage was going through a rough patch, was soon revealed. Jim and Beverly took them in until the situation at home improved. Katie's stay was relatively brief, but Todd grew up in Ramsay Street, remaining in the Robinson household long after his aunt's departure.
Helen Daniels lost at sea with the dentist?! Creating daffy story lines was great fun - the 1988 "Neighbours" board game.

Des Clarke (Paul Keane), probably the most likeable bank manager in soap history, got to marry the stripper from his stag (or "bucks") night, Daphne Lawrence (Elaine Smith). The first wedding did not go according to plan - the bridal car was hijacked by a robber in a gorilla costume. Mind you, the bride and her party had insisted he climb aboard, thinking it was Danny Ramsay (David Clencie), running to the church after delivering a gorilla-gram! Happily, Des and Daphne's second attempt at becoming Mr and Mrs was successful.

Daphne continued to run the coffee shop, and was a good friend and neighbour to all. When the Clarkes were blessed with a son, Jamie, the whole street was thrilled for them.

Then, Daphne learned that her estranged father, Allen (Neil Fitzpatrick), was terminally ill. She took the decision to go and look after him, taking Jamie with her, in an attempt to heal past rifts and to get to know her father. After Allen had died, Daphne was returning to Ramsay Street with her good friend Gail Robinson, who had been giving her some emotional support. The car was involved in an accident - Gail emerged virtually unscathed, but Daphne was seriously injured and went into a coma.

Des sat by her bedside at the hospital, convinced that she would regain consciousness...

But when she did, it was only to answer Des's repeated pledges of love for her: "I love you too, Clarkey."

Then she died.

Eileen Clarke (Myra De Groot) and Nell Mangel (Vivean Gray) were busybodies extraordinaire - members of the local bowls club, and loyal members of the congregation at the local church. The Rev Sampson, played by Howard Bell, appeared in several late '80s episodes.
Eileen and Nell wasted no opportunity to stick their noses into what did not concern them. Mrs Mangel even had a brief spell as agony aunt "Dear Georgette" in a local newspaper!

Of the two, Eileen was the most good hearted, although we must remember Mrs Mangel's devotion to granddaughter Jane (Annie Jones) and the fact that she was befriended by Bouncer, the lovable and highly intelligent Labrador. Perhaps she wasn't all bad!
Eileen's husband, Malcolm (Noel Trevarthen), had walked out on her many years before, so she was shocked to learn that the man was in Erinsborough in 1988 and had been seeing Des, the son from their marriage. She was positively rocked on her heels to discover that Sally Wells (Rowena Mohr), who had worked alongside her at the coffee shop, was Des' half-sister, the product of an affair years before.

Hurt and dismayed, Eileen retreated from the situation, but was eventually won over by Des and Malcolm. Very soon, she and Malcolm were planning to remarry! Sadly, Malcolm let her down on the day - leaving Eileen devastated.

To read more '80s Actual Neighbours stuff, please click on the "Neighbours" label below.