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28.4.11

1981: The Riots And The Royals...

Riots rocked inner cities across the country - etching names like Brixton and Toxteth on all our minds...

... and, wildly contrasting, Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, causing an epidemic of Royal Wedding fever...

Oh the romance, the pomp the ceremony...

There is a glowing moment every bride remembers. When she steps into the sunlight for the first time - as a wife.

For Lady Diana Spencer it was something more. She walked into St Paul's Cathedral as the daughter of an earl. She walked out as the next Queen.

Charles and Diana starred on a very special Rubik's Cube, featuring images of them both and the union flag.

There was a flood of memorabilia...

Royal Wedding - the tray.

And here we have a lovely book about the Royal Wedding. Oh, I'm sorry - it's Not.

The Kids Of 1981 - Rubik's Cube, Fish 'n' Chips, Hide And Seek And Nuclear War...

The Rubik's Cube - UK kids' favourite toy of 1981.

A UK survey on the interests and attitudes of parents and children, carried out for the Walls Ice Cream Company in 1981, made some of the newspapers when the results were published in April 1982.

POWER TO THE KIDS, THE SUN, 21/4/1982.

Children are winning the battle for power in the nation's homes, according to a survey out yesterday.

It reveals that a growing number of youngsters now make the decisions over which hair-styles and clothes to wear - and what to do with their leisure time.

A third of 1,057 seven to seventeen year-olds quizzed claimed they had total freedom over their choice of clothes.

Half made up their own mind over what to do with their spare time - and a third decided what TV programmes to watch.

The favourite toy last year was the Rubik Cube - and hide-and-seek was the top game, followed by chase and cops and robbers.

But the survey - carried out for the Walls Ice Cream Company - showed that youngsters do not get all their own way.

Mums still rule the roost in the kitchen by deciding what food is served.

Fish and chips followed by ice cream was the favourite in most homes last year.

Dads also have the final say over what time children come home at night and go to bed.

The under-tens are in bed between 7.30pm and 8.30pm and six out of ten teenagers have to be in by 10.30pm on weekdays and midnight at weekends.

Only one in six parents interviewed admitted that their children dominated the family's TV viewing habits.

THE BIG WORRIES

Children and their parents share the same big worries about life, the survey reveals.

Both are very concerned about cruelty to children and animals.

Youngsters also fret a great deal about the dangers of smoking and the threat of nuclear war.


Mums and dads are more worried about youth unemployment and rising prices, vandalism, cutbacks in education spending and drug-taking.

The family is the most important thing in the lives of 92 per cent of mothers - and 83 per cent are very happy with their homes.

Most are also satisfied with their standard of living.

But the recession has forced the majority of families to cut back on outings.

27.4.11

Charles And Diana, 1981: Video 2000 - The Best Choice For The Royal Wedding...

July 29, 1981, saw Lady Diana Spencer marry HRH Prince Charles, and what a day it was. The wedding was a glorious spectacle of pomp and ceremony - and just look at the train on Diana's dress!

1981 was a highly memorable year, with the
Royal Wedding, the Rubik's Cube craze, illegal CB radio usage going into overdrive before legalisation in November, and the inner city riots which rocked England.

It's a year I'll never forget - and it seems almost impossible to accept that it is now thirty years ago. Yes, THIRTY!!!

And we have another Royal Wedding in the offing for 2011.

Were you one of those glued to the Royal Wedding on the telly back in 1981? Did you video it? If so you were lucky because not many people had a VCR in 1981. 5% of the population in 1980 were lucky enough, and the Royal Wedding did cause a small leap in sales and rentals of VCRs, but I didn't know anybody that had one. They were very uncommon in 1981.

By early 1985 the figure stood at 25%.

Still, some were lucky enough to be able to use this uncommon device on that very uncommon occasion.

I was fascinated to find the ad below in the Daily Mirror, July 13, 1981, for Video 2000.

Video WHAT?!!! you splutter.

Well, for a time in the early 1980s, Video 2000 was a serious competitor for VHS...

THE PERFECT MATCH. THE PERFECT REPLAY.

Some souvenirs of the royal wedding will be more authentic than others, like the Video 2000 cassette. Philips have spent six years developing the only cassette that will record the whole event. It's all part of the new Video 2000 system.

THE ONLY VIDEO CASSETTE THAT CAN GO THE DISTANCE

No ordinary video cassette can contain all the emotion of a royal wedding.

Especially when proposed TV coverage is 7 hours long.

The unique Video 2000 cassette will record up to eight hours, because it simply flips over like an audio cassette.

Hour for hour it is one of the cheapest forms of video recording around. It leaves the others waiting at the church.

THE MOST ACCURATE PICTURE EVER

To improve your video picture Philips have invented a totally new tracking system: Dynamic Track Following. It actually lays down a pilot signal during recording.

On playback the video heads continually compare the video track with this original pilot. The result is the most accurate picture ever.

Video 2000 is so accurate that it needs no tracking control - the knob other video users have to twiddle when playing a tape recorded on another machine.

Your video 2000 machine will play any Video 2000 cassette perfectly. And that goes for pre-recorded cassettes too.

A ROSY FUTURE

Video 2000 is here to stay. It has been adopted by over twenty major European brands. Why not see the Philips VR2020 recorder at your Philips Video dealer. It will handle July 29th royally.

Philips Video. Simply years ahead.

VIDEO 2000. If you've been waiting for Video, it's arrived.

Daily Mirror, July 30, 1981:

There is a glowing moment every bride remembers. When she steps into the sunlight for the first time - as a wife.

For Lady Diana Spencer it was something more. She walked into St Paul's Cathedral as the daughter of an earl. She walked out as the next Queen.

How certain things seemed back then. And what a day of joyful optimism the twenty-ninth of July, 1981, was - even for the vast majority of us - those without video recorders!

1980 And 1981: Prince Charles And Lady Diana Spencer - How It All Began...

We'd never even heard of Lady Diana Spencer at the start of 1980. But by the end of that year she was the focus of intense public and media interest. Why? Well, basically, she was seeing Prince Charles and the question was: would she become his wife?

Prince Charles had first come to view Lady Diana in a "romantic" light in the summer of 1980, and that type of thing didn't remain secret for long.

The popular press went overboard. The shy young aristocrat, who worked in a very exclusive kindergarten, was the subject of thousands upon thousands of newspaper and magazine articles. No detail of her life, no matter how tiny, was left unexamined.


And when the popular press was desperate, well, they could always print stuff like this:
Daily Mirror, November 15, 1980:

JUST THE TICKET

Lady Di is booked for parking... and the Mirror told you so

It was her boyfriend's 32nd birthday...
The day some said would end with the announcement of a royal engagement. But as the gifts poured in for birthday boy Prince Charles, what did Lady Diana Spencer receive? A parking ticket.

Of course, she could have saved herself the £6 fine if she had checked her own birthday stars in yesterday's Mirror. Under the sign of Cancer, astrologer June Penn wrote: "There's danger of a parking ticket or a small fine, so be careful. Some of you will be asked to an anniversary or other celebration."
Well, she got the parking ticket. The party was to follow later.

The unwelcome sticker was clipped to the windscreen of 19-year-old Lady Di's blue Renault 5.
A traffic warden had spotted it parked on a yellow line just around the corner from her £100,000 Chelsea flat. Of Lady Diana herself there was no sign.

One of the three girls with whom she shares her first-floor mansion flat said: "Diana went out early this morning - before 7 o'clock." Had Lady Diana been invited to a birthday party at Sandringham? The flatmate said: "I don't know where she went or how she intends to spend the day."

A famous sunny day picture of Lady Diana.

The country waited in breathless anticipation. Was an engagement about to be announced? And what was Lady Di like? Daily Mirror, November 19, 1980:

The little school where Lady Diana Spencer spends her working day is not much to look at. It is just a modest church hall and there's a slightly out-of-tune piano to the right of the stage, a hint of dust about and lots of happy noise when the three to five-year-olds crash in through the swing doors.

Assistant teacher "Miss Diana" - as the children call her - loves every living, brawling "Please-may-I-go-to-the-lavatory," and "Jessica's-just-hit-me" moment.

The privileged kindergarten - £150 per term - includes such sprigs as Harold MacMillan's great-grandson, Agriculture Minister Peter Walker's little boy, plus a clutch of merchant bankers' off-spring.

The school, patriotically and simply named Young England, sits opposite Pimlico School, where the working-class children thunder out, pausing occasionally to thumb their noses or make rude noises at the nannies and the slumbering Bentleys lined up outside the tiny place opposite.


Miss Diana - the girl almost everyone thinks will perch on the Throne next to King Charles III - takes it all very easily.
She is a good, affectionate teacher, and one liked and respected by even the occasional anarchic little Tory cabinet minister in training. "Come along, Elizabeth," she will admonish gently, "You're hanging behind." Or "Please, James, don't do THAT! It's not very nice, is it?"

Having delivered such mild rebukes, she will come out with her natural trademark - a brilliant blush.


Lady Diana Spencer may well blush in front of parents and children alike, but during the last few weeks she has demonstrated a remarkably cool and mature approach to the no-holds-barred degree of personal publicity to which she has been subjected...


Now Prince Charles has come out with a potentially significant statement. While week-ending at Sandringham, where Lady Diana was a house-guest, he told a small congregation of the world's press:
"I know you were all expecting some news on Friday (his 32nd birthday) and I know you were disappointed. I can promise you that you will all be told soon enough"...

On paper, of course, she would appear to be the ideal girl. Both sides of her family are highly aristocratic - including four direct links to King Charles II and one to King James II.
Her father, the 8th Earl Spencer (the family name is Althorp and is pronounced Althrup in that perverse way the upper-class English have of saying things differently) is directly related to the Churchill family...

Meeting her one would assume that she was just another quiet, rather unsophisticated, upper-class girl one often meets at smartish London parties.
Very pretty eyes, not a great conversationalist, a trifle nervous, seemingly cool - and (best indication of her character, perhaps) a great laugher. She can look intensely serious one moment - then if someone cracks even a mild joke her face lights up like a beacon of laughter and joy.

Additionally pleasing is her voice. It is not one of those braying, high-pitched, nasal, horsey, pinched howls so typical of that Sloane Ranger set who inhabit London, complete with scarves knotted precisely on their chins and out-of-fashion Gucci shoes clanking away with enthusiasm.
She is quietly spoken, not particularly posh even. It is a pleasant, even classless accent. It is certainly not in the Princess Anne league.

She is something of a domestic fusspot. One of the things she apparently cannot stand is washing up that has not been done. Indeed, she is even known to rush off into the kitchen and do the washing up while a party is going on...


It had finally happened, or so it was reported in some newspapers, just before Christmas 1980: a romantic proposal of marriage from Prince Charles to Lady Diana in the vegetable patch near the farmhouse of his two close friends, Lt. Col. Andrew and Camilla Parker-Bowles. And in early 1981, it was reported, Lady Di had disappeared from the scene to consider the proposal.

From the Daily Mirror, February 17, 1981:

Lady Diana Spencer's vanishing act was explained yesterday.

She had gone away to decide: Shall I marry Prince Charles?

Friends believe that the couple have been asked for a make-or-break decision.

A source close to the Royal Family said: "Lady Diana had to get away from all the pressure and think."

That pressure has been fiercely on Lady Di since Christmas. All sides, including her own family, have urged her to make a statement.

She is believed to have told the Royal Family that she needs time on her own, relaxing in the sun, to finally make up her mind...

And from inside the Daily Mirror, February 17, 1981:

Prince Charles proposed to Lady Diana Spencer just before Christmas - in the vegetable patch outside the farmhouse of his close and trusted friends, Lt. Col. Andrew and Camilla Parker-Bowles.

On the day in question Charles had been out hunting with Andrew and Camilla Parker-Bowles near their home at Allington, near Chippenham, Wilts.

Now it was early evening on a clear, beautiful winter day. Prince Charles and Lady Diana were holding hands. Charles, Lady Diana has told friends, seemed "strangely stifled."

Then he asked her: "If I were to ask you, do you think it would be possible?"

Lady Diana has since told friends: "I immediately felt the immense absurdity of the situation and couldn't help giggling. I still think the situation is absurd, but I just don't giggle anymore"...


From the Sun, February 25, 1981:

MY SHY DI

Charles presents his bride-to-be

The look of love is there for the world to see... as Prince Charles presents the girl he will marry. Lady Diana Spencer, 19, and the 32-year-old heir to the throne stepped out together in the grounds of Buckingham Palace yesterday - just hours after their engagement was announced.

Shy Di smiled and blushed as she displayed her dazzling engagement ring - an oval sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds in 18 carat white gold. And there was no disguising her love for the Prince as she looked up at him and said: "I think I coped all right."

The account of the marriage proposal is different here - we move from Camilla Parker-Bowles' vegetable patch just before Christmas 1980, to Charles' private quarters at Buckingham Palace in early 1981:

Delighted Prince Charles revealed last night how he popped the question to Lady Diana over a romantic dinner.

He asked her to be his bride three weeks ago as they ate in his private quarters in Buckingham Palace.

The anxious heir deliberately timed the proposal to fall just before Lady Diana was due to fly to Australia for a holiday.

He explained: "I wanted to give her a chance to think about it - to think if it was all going to be too awful."

But Lady Diana settled the matter there and then.

And she chipped in yesterday: "I never had any doubts about it."

The paper further reported that the Royal romance had begun in July 1980, and that Diana would live at Clarence House, home of the Queen Mother, until the wedding.

The Sun's centre page spread on the same day:

Lady Diana Spencer, the English rose who has captured Prince Charles' heart, was born to be a queen.

From babyhood she has known the ways of royalty - the protocol, the courtesies and the taboos, as well as the over-riding responsibility of public duty and discretion.

The nation has fallen in love, too, with the beautiful strawberry blonde whose blushes are so endearing.

Shy Di, as she is known to close friends, has the pedigree of one of England's great families - and something about her of the Queen Mother's aura.

She is witty, well bred, friendly and unsophisticated, and she adores children. Above all, she is well liked by the Queen.

To the Royal Family she was really the girl next door.

She was christened at Sandringham and was brought up in rambling Park House on the royal estate.

As a child Lady Diana, with her two elder sisters, joined the royal children at the same birthday parties and shared the same friends .

And the Spencer children were invited on regular visits to Windsor Castle and Balmoral.

But Diana's playmates were the younger princes, Andrew and Edward. With a 13-year age difference, Charles treated her as a sort of kid sister...

The romance did not start until last autumn, shortly after her 19th birthday.

The couple spent a weekend together at Balmoral. She watched Charles fish for salmon.

Diana was barely back in her London flat when the telephone rang. It was Charles. Flowers followed and the message was believed to be signed "with love".

In the run-up to the great event, Royal Wedding fever struck - Charles and Di appeared on a huge variety of items, including clocks, trays, tea cups and a very special Rubik's Cube, featuring images of them both and the union flag...

I always remember 1981 as being the summer of the three R's - Royals, Rubik's and...

... Riots - the Sun, July 6, 1981.


And here we have a lovely book about the Royal Wedding. Oh, I'm sorry - it's Not - Not The Nine O'Clock News, of course, the brilliant BBC TV show giving its own unique view of events in book form. Rowan Atkinson takes Prince Charles' place for the cover pic.

On 29 July, Charles and Diana were married...

Daily Mirror, July 30, 1981:

There is a glowing moment every bride remembers. When she steps into the sunlight for the first time - as a wife.

For Lady Diana Spencer it was something more. She walked into St Paul's Cathedral as the daughter of an earl. She walked out as the next Queen.

How certain things seemed back then. And what a day of joyful optimism the twenty-ninth of July, 1981, was.


25.4.11

Neighbours And Wikipedia - Inaccurate Information Regarding Channel Nine And 1982?

Mrs Mangel appears to frighten the Neighbours off!

Sandie has written:

According to Wikipedia, Reg Watson, Neighbours creator, originally pitched the idea to Australian TV network Channel Nine in 1982. The Herald Sun has taken up the info from Wikipedia - or the other way about! Is this true? All the Neighbours material I have, including interviews with Mr Watson, indicate that he first pitched the idea to Channel Seven two years later.

Thanks for that, Sandie. My information also indicates that 1984 and Channel Seven was the first "pitching". Much was written about the show's origins when it initially achieved success, including the excellent book by James Oram - "Neighbours - Behind The Scenes" - and the Channel Nine/1982 information was never mentioned. Wikipedia is not a resource I use or would quote, so until I'm told by an absolutely reliable source (and no newspaper, no matter its quality, is absolutely infallible), 1984 will remain the year that the idea for the Ramsay Street saga was first put forward to an Australian TV network.

Here is an extract from Mr Oram's book, which contains the "origins of Neighbours" story I am familiar with:

In 1984 Ian Holmes (president and managing director of the Grundy organisation) was thinking about soaps. So was Reg Watson, head of TV Drama at the Grundy Organisation. Born and raised in Brisbane, Watson went, like so many creative Australians, to Britain because of the work limitations at home. He set up ATV's first game show, 'Hit The Limit', wrote several early episodes of 'Emergency Ward 10', then worked for several years on 'Crossroads'. Always in his mind was the idea of a serial like 'Neighbours'.

"I first got the idea for 'Neighbours' in England watching 'Coronation Street',' he said. 'I spent long enough in England to know that 'Neighbours' was just right for viewers over there too."

In fact Holmes and Watson (that duo has a familiar ring) were so confident it would be a success in Britain they wanted to co-produce it with the BBC and include several English characters. "But that was scrapped when the BBC failed to get its daytime schedule together by the time we were ready to go with 'Neighbours'," said Holmes.


Interviewed by the Perfect Blend website in 2005, Reg Watson said:   

'In pitching the show to Seven and Ten I blithely said, “This concept can run for twenty years”. I knew from the looks on their faces that they thought they'd heard it all before.'

And by the way - if Mr Watson ever states that he did pitch the basic idea for Neighbours (for a basic outline would have been all it was) to Channel Nine in 1982, I will be more than happy to accept it. I simply don't feel at ease with rewriting the Neighbours history on the current evidence. Yes it's trivial, but on a site called '80s Actual, I've got to keep it ACTUAL, haven't I? :)  


The Herald Sun "Slippery Soap" article - which is not even on-line, does not cut it as a definite statement of fact.  What was pitched in 1982? Does the "pitching" still insist in original form? Was it a similar concept? Something very different? The article is based on one person's memories. How the memory can play tricks! However the pitched item had turned out, it would not have been the Neighbours saga we all recall. 

And curiously...

Why does Wikipedia ignore the fact that the Neighbours concept was definitely pitched to Channel 7 in 1984? Why is that year missing from the Wiki page? All highly odd, and very non-encyclopedic! The Wikipedia Neighbours page appears to be under very tight control by at least one rather obsessive editor, so it's probably best ignored.

Beware the perils of Wikipedia! :)

22.4.11

EastEnders: Angie Watts, Her Shaggy Perm And Ever Changing Moods, Sue Osman At The Cafe, Lou Beale In Brighton and "Thatcher Is Killing Us All!"

Good grief - I've just been watching the first eight episodes of EastEnders from 1985, and I'm absolutely stunned! Clearly influenced by the subversive Liverpool saga Brookside, which had begun in November 1982, the Albert Square saga was, however, far more seething, far more "in yer face", far more downbeat.

Obviously the downbeat part was a teensy bit overplayed: there we were, in the mid-1980s, with Thatcher in her second term of office after her landslide of 1983, and many BBC types were out to portray just how grim life was for us plebs under her rule. How I applauded at the time. But it isn't the truth. It wasn't like that for everybody - far from it. And young Punk Mary Smith (Linda Davidson), being moved into a Victorian hovel room, complete with iron bedstead, does not echo the experiences of young single mothers I knew back then. Indeed, many of the older generation were complaining that these young women were given far too much by the State.

Sue and Ali Osman (Sandy Ratcliff and Nejdet Salih) made a memorable couple as they slugged it out in the cafe.

The teenagers, apart from Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean), who appeared good for a giggle, were far too dowdy and miserable, and all-in-all the "Thatcher is killing everything good" vibe ("Community spirit went out when the Tories came in!" "It's that cow in Number 10!") is a little bit laughable.

The Square obviously hadn't begun its tumble downhill in the few short years of Maggie. But, that aside, early EastEnders is compelling viewing: Anna Wing as horror bag Lou Beale ("I've missed me bingo!"), Wendy Richard as a surprisingly chirpy Pauline Fowler ("I need a fag!"), Gretchen Franklin as lovely, dippy Ethel Skinner ("The last time I had beef, we had a different Prime Minister!"), Sandy Ratcliff as miserable, bitchy but somehow touchingly vulnerable Sue Osman ("ALI!!"), Ali Osman, the aforementioned's ever loving ("SUE - pack it in!!") and Anita Dobson and Leslie Grantham as Angie and Den Watts of the Queen Victoria public house ("Seventeen years since our marriage was consummated. Except it wasn't!" "You're barred!") particularly light up the screen for me.

And although Albert Square was rather too grim to be total reality, it certainly made compelling viewing and uncompromisingly pulled many issues of the day out of the closet and shoved them in our faces.

It was a shock.

Favourite characters? Well, my all time favourite EastEnder has to be Lou Beale - what a terrific battle-axe she was! I recall almost bumping into actress Anna Wing outside Boots in Brighton on a very hot, sunny day in the early 1990s. Lou, the character, had been dead since 1988, but suddenly coming face to face with Miss Wing, and being heavily hung over and dazzled by the sunshine at the time, I saw only Mrs Beale, and fully expected to get a terrible mouthful for almost knocking into her. I changed course and stumbled up the steps into Boots, although I'd had no intention of going there originally! With shaking hand, I sought out a hangover remedy and retired back to my hotel for a long lay down!

Number two favourite has to be Angie Watts - Anita Dobson. I know actors are supposed to act, but how on earth did she do it? At the beginning of a scene, we might find Angie crying. Then, suddenly, she was happy, all teeth and smiles. Then she was blazingly angry. Then she was frightened, heavily made-up eyes wide with fear. Then she'd suddenly laugh and turn playful...

Angie's wardrobe and snazzy '80s shaggy perm were also highlights.

And where would we have been without the sneering and surprisingly complex Den?

And Sue Osman - could be quite a bitch, but seemed so insecure I always wanted to give her a comforting hug.

Thoroughly engrossing viewing.

What a shame the BBC doesn't bring out some official DVD releases of '80s 'Enders.

Read what happened when Anita Dobson took to the pop charts and opened a bingo hall in the town where I live in 1986 here.


19.4.11

1980: The "Type K" Pillar Box

1987 - the embattled residents of Brookside Close, stars of Phil Redmond's groundbreaking Channel 4 serial, and the production team, with a very interesting pillar box (far left). This box was a permanent fixture on the Close, but differed from many dotted across our green and pleasant land. It was kind of steamlined... kind of modern... it looked... kind of like a lipstick.

So, what was it?

The answer is a "Type K" pillar box, introduced on 31 July 1980.

A new pillar box for a new decade, and felt to be "more in keeping with the times in which we live".

Of course, it would have taken more than a modern pillar box to cheer up the Brookside folks, particularly legendary grouse Harry Cross (Bill Dean). Bless 'im!

The Type K ceased production in 2000 but examples can still be spotted here and there.

Post Office official souvenir cover - introduction of the new style posting box, 31 July, 1980.

The accompanying blurb reads:

It is just over 100 years since the cylindrical pillar box was generally introduced.

In redesigning the pillar box the opportunity has been taken to create a product more in keeping with the times in which we live and takes advantage of modern techniques. The box has been designed by Tony Gibbs a Fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers and is being made by Lion Foundry of Kirkintilloch, Glasgow.

3.4.11

Orville's Song - And Beyond...

Charting on 25/12/1982 (what a Christmas present!), Orville's Song reached its chart peak on 15/1/1983 at No. 4.The song was written by pianist Bobby Crush.

Interviewed in the 1990s, Keith Harris recalled his heady days of pop stardom: 

"Bobby Crush wrote Orville's Song - I Wish I Could Fly - and we recorded it at Abbey Road Studios in 1980. I thought if Abbey Road was good enough for the Beatles, it'll do for Orville and me! The major recording companies laughed when I suggested we had a hit on our hands and Orville's Song was 'buried' for two years until it was released in 1982.

"It sold three quarters of a million copies, reached number four in the Top 20 and won us a gold disc.

"We appeared on Top Of The Pops. I don't know who was more gobsmacked - Orville and me or the groups on the same show. They couldn't believe they were sharing the same stage with a 'vent' and a dummy. Brilliant."

Some 1982/83 people sang a very unkind version of Orville's Song...

"Orful, who is your very best friend?"

"You are."

"I'm gonna help you mend your broken NECK!"

But then some people were/are just plain insensitive.

Some 1980 blurb on Keith Harris reveals that he had wanted to be a ventriloquist ever since he was a small boy. Apparently he'd worked all over the world and starred in TV programmes including Cuddles and Co, and two series of the Black and White Minstrel Show.

In 1980, Keith was sharing his home in Bournemouth with his wife, Shari, Orville the green duck ventriloquist puppet, and Cuddles - his ventriloquist puppet monkey. Keith's hobbies then included designing puppet characters, interior decorating and tennis. He hated violence and cruelty to any living creature.

For those wanting to follow in his footsteps, he advised: "Be original and have plenty of practice."

The Sunday Mirror article above, from 9 June 1985, contains concerns that some of Orville's material was rather too adult.

I never noticed that.


I couldn't stick Orville - green ducks with soppy voices were not and ARE not my thing, but my sisters (and my mum) loved him dearly. I think they still do!
What do I know, anyway? Cynical little swine...

Advertisement from the "TV Times", 1987.

It's A Lot Less Bother Than A Hover Causes Bovver...



One of my favourite TV ad slogans of the 1980s was "It's a lot less bovver than a hover" - from the Qualcast lawn mower ads. It seemed like a bit of fun to me as a viewer who didn't even own a lawnmower, but was apparently causing no end of angst for the folks at Flymo, who made the hover mowers. The article below, from the Sun, April 29, 1983, reveals that the Flymo workers were taking their concerns to the House of Commons.

One Flymo employee said: "There is no bother with our hover - and we have two Queen's Awards to Industry in the past year to prove it."

Computers and games 1983

Pac-Man 2, Donkey Kong, Astro-Wars, Scramble - 1983 mail order catalogue heaven!

Delights here include Speak and Spell (note the 1980-introduced membrane keyboard), Speak and Maths, Major Morgan and Simon.

A Rumbelows ("We save you money and serve you right") newspaper ad from May 1983. "We have the technology," but the usually smiling Mr Rumbelow doesn't look any too sure about it all! Featured here are the Texas TI994A, the Commodore VIC 20 and the good old Speccy!

From a spring/summer 1983 mail order catalogue. The Atari video system cost £119.99 - very expensive back then. The blurb read:

Connect it to your TV in seconds - sit back - and get ready for a new experience! Every system includes console, two joy stick controllers, mains adaptor and 27-game combat cartridge. There's action, adventure, excitement. Pit your wits - against the computer or up to three opponents. On-screen scoring, different levels of difficulty, realistic sound effects... start sharing in the fun now!

The TV games, including Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Asteroids and Haunted House, cost from £15.99 to £31.99.

Crumbs - the little darling at the top of this catalogue page cost £599.95. So, what did you get if you could afford it? The blurb, maestro, please!

Flexible system expansion and varied programme applications; 48K byte dynamic RAM; employs BASIC in the tape mode; PASCAL software system also available simply by replacing tapes; 9-inch high focus monochromatic display - 25 lines, 40 characters wide; advanced functions include scrolling display rolling and screen editing; typewriter keyboard arrangement with numeric keypad to make data entry smooth and operation simple; built in clock circuit; complete with four programmed cassettes covering BASIC editorial, Home Finance, Educational and Games.

And in simpler terms?

Sharp computer, designed for home and office environment. Applications include stock management, invoicing, marketing analysis, maths, physics, chemistry, computer linguistics, data analysis, home budget management, games etc.

1.4.11

Duran Duran - Were YOU A Duranie?

Duran Duran - New Romantic moments in 1981 and 1982.

The pop group Duran Duran was formed by Nick Rhodes and John Taylor in 1978, however the classic line-up did not come together until 1980.

In early 1980, the owners of the Rum Runner Club, Birmingham, England - brothers Paul and Michael Berrow - took the band (at that point, after several changes in line-up, consisting of John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Nick Rhodes) under their wings, paying the lads to work as doormen, disc jockeys and glass collectors when they were not rehearsing, and providing them with rehearsal space.

In April 1980, Andy Taylor answered an ad for a "live wire guitarist" with Duran Duran.

In May 1980, Simon Le Bon met the band, introduced by his ex-girlfriend, Rum Runner barmaid Fiona Kemp, who recommended him as a potential vocalist. Apparently, Simon attended his audition clad in pink leopard print trousers.

Duran Duran in the 1982 "Rio" video - note the prototype "Miami Vice" gear. Jacket sleeves had begun to be pushed up as a fashion trend around the turn of the decade - and the trend grew more and more prevalant as the decade got underway. Shoulder pads began to grow (courtesy of the likes of Joan Collins and, judging by this picture, John Taylor) and everyday men began to wear bright colours.

In June 1980, the Berrow brothers formed a company, Tritec Music. Duran Duran signed a production contract with Tritec and the Berrow brothers became the band's managers.

The band's classic line-up of
Simon Le Bon (vocals), John Taylor (bass), Roger Taylor (drums), Andy Taylor (guitar), and Nick Rhodes (synthesizers) played their first show together at the Rum Runner on July 9 1980.

In December 1980, Duran Duran landed a deal with EMI Records.

In 1981 the Durans were futuristic dandies (remember Planet Earth?), taking over the charts, their every movement eagerly followed by a growing band of dedicated Duranies.


John Taylor gets touched up for a mid-80s photo shoot.

A 1984 book chronicling the history of the group. Cue hysterical Duranies: "Oh, Simon, Oh Simon, I love you, I love you!"

Duran Duran became one of THE pop groups of the 1980s. In 1981, they'd been New Romantics, flouncing around in out sized frillies, but they outlived that scene well and truly.

1982: all aboard - another "Rio" shot.

Influencing fashion, movers and shakers in the pop video market (remember Girls on Film?!), and purveyors of some highly distinctive and polished '80s pop music, Duran Duran became legends.

And as instantly evocative of the 1980s in the years since as Rubik's Cube, the ZX Spectrum and shoulder pads!

"Cherry ice cream smile..."

Heart throb John discovers something interesting on the beach.

These Duran Duran wrist bands were ideal for sport, or nipping out for a packet of ciggies.