04 June 2009

Heather Chasen As Valerie Pollard: Changes At The Crossroads Motel...

1982 - a new arrival at the Crossroads Motel...

An early 1980s Radio Rentals advertisement for a (then) new-fangled video recorder stated: "It can take 16 episodes of Crossroads (if you can!)".

As only around 5% of UK households had a VCR at the time, not many would have put that assertion to the test.

But the ad clearly demonstrates the contempt felt for the poor old Crossroads soap, which had been on-air since November 1964.

Yet, daft and boring though many viewers thought it, there was also great affection for the show.

In fact, some of the people who found it daft and boring were also fond of it.

It was around the time of the Radio Rentals ad that turmoil struck the Crossroads Motel: Noele Gordon, who played the leading character, Meg Richardson/Mortimer, was axed, and further changes were planned as the old motel reception set, on-screen since 1969, was burned down.

In the wake of Noele Gordon's departure from the
show, Jack Barton, producer, made it plain that Crossroads couldn't revolve around a single character in the future.

And so, over at the motel, we had Barbara (Sue Lloyd) and David Hunter (Ronald Allen) running things with Jill Harvey (Jane Rossington) and Adam Chance (Tony Adams). Not a particularly cosy set-up as David and Adam did not get along, and David could not shake off his suspicions that Adam's interest in Jill was not entirely honourable.

The closest we came to a Meg-style linchpin in this new set-up was Barbara - but she had other fish to fry, like writing best selling novels, and refused to be tied totally to the motel.

Elsewhere, we had the Brownlows - lovable, motherly Kath (Pamela Vezey), grumpy Arthur (Peter Hill), brilliantly frumpy Glenda (Lynette McMorrough) and her newish husband, Kevin Banks (David Moran) - the couple had married in 1981.

The not-so-cosy boarding house belonging to Mavis Hooper (Charmian Eyre) had been introduced in 1981- Mrs Overall, who was first seen in Acorn Antiques in 1985, was Mavis's "lookey likey".

With waitress Diane Hunter (Susan Hanson) cleaner and kitchen help Doris Luke (Kathy Staff) and the Crossroads Garage staff - including Sharon Metcalfe (Carolyn Jones), Benny Hawkins (Paul Henry) and Joe MacDonald (Carl Andrews), the motel marched on post-Meg.

And then came a stroke of genius on the part of the writers and production team.

Businessman J Henry Pollard (Michael Turner) had first appeared in the Crossroads saga in 1980, along with his daughter, Miranda (Claire Faulconbridge).

In April 1982, we finally get to meet Mrs Pollard. Mrs Valerie Pollard, J Henry's wife, who apparently loathed him dearly and had been forced to travel from her home in Bermuda to England when J Henry suddenly cut her funding.

Val, played by the very excellent Heather Chasen, enjoyed the good life - luxurious accommodation, travel-on-a-whim, wonderful food, lots of beach romeos...

And then, suddenly, there she was trapped at the Crossroads Motel, where she would stay, her ever-loving hubby informed her, and become a good and loving wife.

Otherwise, J Henry would divorce her and she could rest assured that, with his best lawyers on the case, she wouldn't be getting any wonderful divorce settlement. She would get nothing.

Valerie hit back - and hit back hard, seducing and bedding Adam Chance on his boat. Jill was devastated and Adam left the motel.

What a bitch was Valerie...

But she wasn't only a bitch. Languid and witty, she was also capable of good deeds...

And, of course, under the veneer of vehement dislike, she actually cared for J Henry very much indeed...

And he cared for her.

With daughter Miranda on-and-off the scene, the Pollards were a complicated family. J Henry was not keen on showing his feelings, Valerie could be devious and Miranda was often headstrong and immature.

But they livened up Crossroads no end! I hadn't been particularly impressed by the father/daughter J Henry/Miranda set-up we'd been treated to (on occasion, the characters were not permanent regulars) since 1980. But with Val on the scene from 1982 onwards, the Pollard "thing" really got some zing!

And, with her huge wardrobe of swish clothes, plus her tendency to toy with the peanuts and her "Pussyfoot Special" at the bar, Valerie was a very stylish person indeed.

Although the character only appeared (intermittently) from 1982-1985, the memory lingers - oh for the great telly days of the '80s!

From the Sun - £10 telly-view reader's letter, 29/5/1982:

Heather Chasen has brought a refreshing touch of good acting to "Crossroads".

Her haughty but not over-acted Valerie Pollard makes the show worth watching for a change.

Mrs DL, Norfolk.


Tom said...

I LOVED Valerie Pollard. She really helped to pull the show into the 1980s.

Anonymous said...

I used to love the way she dressed, but i can't find may pictures of her in this role...