Friday, 29 December 2017

THE MATING GAME POSTER


POSTER: THE MATING GAME - WINDMILL THEATRE - 1976 (TWICE NIGHTLY)

Just when you think you’ve seen everything, something interesting comes along to pique your interest. Such were my feelings when I saw this vintage theatre poster for sale a while back.

Now many of the stars of Crossroads were equally at home on the stage – so it comes as no surprise to learn that there are numerous examples of theatre productions featuring them.

What makes this an interesting item is that so many stars of the show are together at one time, and that it specifically plays on their Crossroads links.

Ann George was the wonderful Amy Turtle, Peter Brookes played postman - Vince Parker, Caroline Dowdeswell  played  Anne Powell  and David Valla played barman Bill Warren. Interestingly, Ann is credited as "Anne" - with an e.

The website of the play-write Robin Hawdon, HERE describes the play, written in 1973 as follows…

'One of the most enduring comedies on the international theatre circuit since its long run in London's West End in the 1970s. Staple diet of stock and amateur theatres everywhere. Five in the cast and a set which almost outacts them all!' 

Set in a smart Mayfair apartment, full of gadgets with a mind of their own, the story concerns the frantic attempts of a trendy young TV personality, to both lose his virginity and avoid true love, whilst at the same time preserving his image as a notorious stud. Despite poor initial reviews the play was hugely popular with audiences, became a regular on the British touring circuit for the next twenty years, and is still frequently revived abroad.

CAST:

DRAYCOTT HARRIS (T.V. star)
JAMES HARRIS (His elder brother)
HONEY TOOKS (his P.R. girl)
JULIA (his secretary)
MRS FINNEY (his housekeeper)

I think it’s fairly obvious which actor was playing each part from the descriptions above – but in my mind there’s a strange version where Amy Turtle is Honey Tooks.  No? Just me? I’ll get me coat.

Ann George as Amy Turtle - inspecting Shughie's offal

Peter Brookes as Vince Parker - appearing one last time (?) at Meg's Wedding

David Valla as Bill Warren

Caroline Dowdeswell as Anne Powell


Friday, 1 December 2017

CROSSROADS MONTHLY MAGAZINE


THE OFFICIAL MAGAZINE OF BRITAIN'S FAVOURITE TV SERIES

In 1976 an exciting thing occurred for Crossroads fans up and down the country… The launch of “Crossroads Monthly” – It was billed as “The Official Magazine of the ATV series” – well for issue one at least…By issue two it had become “The “Official Magazine of Britain’s Favourite TV Series”.

Looking back that seems quite a claim to make – but the series was riding high following the 1975 wedding of Meg and Hugh and it is easy to forget just how popular the programme was back then in the “golden years”.

It was produced by Felix Dennis and published by H. Bunch and Associates, under licence from ATV licencing Ltd, with Pictorial Content © ATV Network – should you be interested in that kind of thing.

Anyway, back to Issue one of “Crossroads Monthly” – it features a gloriously 1970’s brown cover, and a photo of Meg and Hugh (with Hugh in a silk dressing gown). It promises such delights as a “Meg and Hugh Full Colour Pin-Up”, “Exclusive Interviews with Noele Gordon and John Bentley”, a Crossroads Short Story by Malcom Hulke… and the chance to “Meet the Men in Meg’s Life” – which isn’t as salacious as it sounds – but is deemed worthy of TWO mentions on the cover… How could anyone resist?

So – what did the reader get for their 25 pence? Well – actually – quite a nice magazine if truth be told.

Page 2 claims that the magazine intends to tell you “everything you ever wanted to know about the longest-running programme in television history!” Now I’m pretty sure that the producers of Coronation Street (1960), Blue Peter (1958) and even Doctor Who (1963) – to name just a few – may have had something to say about such a spurious claim about Crossroads (1964), but I can’t blame the producers for “bigging themselves up a bit” so we’ll gloss over that statistic.

It goes on to describe Meg Richardson as “the reigning queen of Crossroads” and “The best-loved female character on TV”. It also describes Noele Gordon as “the most popular actress”. Her numerous TV Times awards at this time does indeed back up this claim – and it easy to see why practically the whole magazine is devoted to Noele/ Meg.

There are some great photos – some of which (I am led to believe) no longer exist in the official archives – which makes these magazines quite important when it comes to preserving the history of the show.

Strangely for a magazine aimed at an adult audience, the characters themselves pop-up in all sorts of ways to introduce features. There is a “photo album” presented by “Meg” from 1967 when the Crossroads team flew to Tunisia, and even extracts from her diary

One of my favourite articles is “Mr. Booth Presents… Crossroads Cookery”, where the Crossroads chef himself apparently gives readers the low-down on how to make such culinary delights as Italian Ministrone Soup, Lasagne Verdi al Forno and Shwarz Walder Kirchtorte (Black Forest Gateaux to you) – These would have been fairly exotic dishes for 1976 I am told!

Trips to Tunisia, an interview with “Hollywood” actor John, Bentley and the ‘posh nosh’ reflect something of the glamourous appeal of the show – which is so easily forgotten by modern-day detractors, TV critics that were born yesterday and “talking heads” on 21st century clip-shows.

Issue Two makes no secret of the fact that the publishers were trying to cash-in on the enormous success of the TV Times “Wedding Souvenir” from the year before – it is a full blown “anniversary souvenir”. By now the “regular” features of “Crossroads Stars” (astrology) make their first appearance – as does the “Mail Box” where Noele Gordon attempts to answer questions from readers (some of whom actually seem to believe that they are writing to Meg Mortimer). Mr. Booth goes all-out with recipes for “Smoked Mackerel Pate, Mushroom Soup, Shoulder of Lamb with Orange and Lemon Stuffing and Chocolate Orange Mouse” (It really does say “Mouse”). There are also adverts and offers for “Crossroads” novels, the Wedding LP and even “Noele Gordon Sings” LP and there is even a “Royal Visit” included – when Princess Alexandra opened the ATV studios in Birmingham.

By Issue 6 (which features a new logo), regular features include “Home Hints from Jill Harvey” and “Carney’s Garden” alongside Mr. Booth’s recipes for “Melon Balls with Orange, Milk Lemonade, Peach and Orange Ice and Savoury Rice with Chicken Livers and Raisins”. The last page again features astrology and a Crossword – although some of the links to Crossroads are a bit ‘thin’ (e.g. 9 Across: “It might help to make a cake in the motel kitchen (6)”)
  
In fact the last 6 pages or so actually have very little relevance to Crossroads at all – certainly no Crossroads photographs and even the main feature focuses again on Noele Gordon (in the form of family photos).

Could it be that the magazine was running out of Crossroads steam? It is difficult to say. It is said that the publishers only had a six-month deal – during which time they actually produced seven issues.

The seventh issue (featuring Noele in a swim-suit, sitting on a fence as its main cover image and a price increase to 30 pence) promises that issue 8 will include various features, including an interview with composer, Simon May – but sadly it was not to be! Apparently the licence was not renewed and it wasn’t published.

So after six months, the magazine ended. I am led to believe that it sold well at the time – and the regular appearance of the first six issues on ebay certainly backs this up. The seventh actually comes up a little bit less often than the others, and some fans have speculated that this suggests that sales fell, although there is no official evidence to support this.

Have I read the magazines? Yes.
Do they tell me “everything I ever wanted to know”? No.
Will I ever try Mr. Booth’s recipes, Carney’s gardening advice or Jill Harvey’s home hints? Maybe.


I like the magazines – but I’m glad there are only seven to collect!

Cover images for all seven issues of Crossroads Monthly Magazine
Thanks to Mike at the Crossroads Appreciation Society I can share the following image with you - that reveals what WOULD have been in Issue 8 - had it been printed....


...and here is a "made-up" (i.e. fake) version of a cover that I knocked up one afternoon....



Sunday, 19 November 2017

IAN PATERSON (ANDY FROM THE TELEVISION SERIES CROSSROADS) SINGING


IAN PATERSON SINGS

Well we all know that Meg Mortimer would strike up the band, engage "John" in the key of D and even give Chester Harriott a nod on the piano, but did you know that her brother, Andy was also fond of  a singsong?

This is a great piece of nostalgia for fans of the show - and another rare piece of merchandise that credits the "character" as well as the actor. It is also another example of early TV tie-in merchandise as it dates from 1966.

His obituary in "The Scotsman" referred to his love of singing and his roots to Scotland:

"IAN Paterson enjoyed several years as a top-of-the-bill singer in many of the leading Scottish theatres from the post-war years till the Sixties. He had a charming light musicality to his voice that blended in well with other leading singers and his warm and jovial personality made him popular with audiences all round Scotland. "

Ian joined Crossroads in 1965 and appeared (on and off) until 1975. As the brother of Meg he was involved in many story-lines throughout his time - and was even the focus of the 1966  "500 episodes" celebration when his character married Ruth Bailey. His last appearance, as far as I know, was to attend the wedding of Meg and Hugh in 1975, appearing at the wedding reception held at the "Droitwich Hotel" in episode 2302 - although not at the Cathedral itself in episode 2301. 

Daughter, friend, son-in-law, mother, nephew... but no Andy Fraser!
Oh there he is - complete with wife Ruth



Seated next to Meg at the reception - and excited by the cake.

Waving off the happy couple


Shame he couldn't make the wedding. Clearly he was only interested in the cake...  Wedding breakfast aside I like his relaxed performance in the show, and look forward to hearing this record - if I ever buy myself a record player!


Ian Patinson's earliest surviving appearance (Episode 496) from November 1966


MOTEL WALLPAPER


MOTEL RECEPTION WALLPAPER - CLOSE MATCH


Whilst Browsing on ebay today I came across this 1960's / 1970's wallpaper for sale. Whilst not a perfect match, it is pretty close to that used in the reception of the Crossroads Motel in the 1970s. Now.. my wife has (so far) not objected too much with me buying stuff to recreate the Sitting Room, but if I started pitching up a reception desk in the middle of the lounge she might get annoyed. 

Either way - the link is here - should you have a spare room... and an understanding partner!




Friday, 8 September 2017

HOBO ON A PARK BENCH - NOT BENNY!


PORECELAIN HOBO ON A PARK BENCH - REPLICA

There was actually a rather famous hobo - or tramp that appeared regularly in Crossroads for many years. With his distinctive headgear, battered jacket and patched up trousers, you may be forgiven for thinking it is Benny that I am talking about - but no!

One of the more distinctive pieces of porcelain in Meg's collection was a hobo on a park bench - complete with worn out shoes and patches on his knees.

Now as you will know if you are a regular visitor - as well as enjoying Crossroads, I have started a min-collection / mission to recreate parts of Meg's sitting room - and part of that involves buying replicas of the ornaments she has in her collection. One such piece is this...

Now it seems to appear around the time that the sitting room turns brown - so slightly later in the series - and is often featured behind the characters.

This is (I think) a cheap replica of the actual type that Meg had - as the colouring is slightly different and less well applied - but from a distance it is a pretty good match. I recently bought this from ebay for a very cheap price as there is some damage to the shoes - but undamaged and original ones seem to go for a lot more!

This one was described as a "Capodimonte Hobo on a Park Bench" - should you also have the urge to buy one!

The sort of item an international businessman may have on his shelf...




Sunday, 16 April 2017

JILL'S TEA SET


CLASSIC DESIGN AND VERY LOVELY: STONEHENGE MIDWINTER SUN

I have already discussed various cups and saucers in my Crossroads Collection - some of which are replicas, and some of which are the genuine article. This is another example of a replica.

Actually, finding this was something of a happy accident. I went into an antiques shop to ask about a completely unrelated item from the show. The chap in there knew nothing of that item, but happened to mention that he knew what Jill's tea-set was called. It transpired that as a student (40 years ago) he had been surprised to find that she had acquired the same set as he had -  at around the same time.

For many Crossroads fans in the 1970's this tea-set was something of an "aspirational" item - However its classic design and bright colours make it feel as fresh and contemporary today as it did over 40 years ago.

The "Stonehenge" range was designed by Roy Midwinter and was decorated with designs created by Jessie Tate, Eve Midwinter and various other artists.

Most Stonehenge patterns were released in the early 1970's, however many remained in production until withdrawn in 1982 or 1983. Jill's design - "SUN", was perhaps the most popular and is thought that it remained in production until 1987.

You can find a full history of the range HERE.

Strangely, at the time of writing, there are many, many items available to buy online - quite a few of them are from America - so (while the items themselves are not expensive) the postage is quite high.

I don't intend to buy the full set, but I was impressed that a random person I met was able to talk in detail about something from Crossroads that he remembered from his youth. You see - I'm not the only nutter out there!

Other items available in the range - NOT my collection (sadly)

An original advert for the range

Episode from 1977 - Tea set so cool that it opens PART TWO

I love Jill's jugs - and teapot - but look at that tray!

Have you ever seen so much brown and orange in one place?

"Do you reckon one day my sofa will be a collectors item too?"

Sunday, 26 February 2017

MEG "TWO PHONES" MORTIMER - REPLICAS


MEG'S HOTLINE TO RECEPTION... AND BEYOND!

Although I was only 6 when Meg's Sitting Room made its last appearance in Crossroads, I was always fascinated by the fact that Meg had two telephones. A "normal" one and a red one. What was unusual about the red one is that it had no dial.

Now I know she often used it to call reception - or the kitchen - or the cafeteria - or the garage - but in my head it was so much more than that.

The reason?

BATMAN.

Yes. Batman.

You see, Bruce Wayne / Batman also had a red phone that was almost identical to Meg's. (Commissioner Gordon had one as well - but I couldn't see why she would need to call him).

In my head I used to marvel at the fact that Meg could perhaps contact Batman whenever she had some crimes that needed solving in Kings Oak... and that Batman could contact Meg whenever he wanted to pop round for a sherry. Oh imagine the fun they could have had. A whole spin-off series "Bat-Meg"... we can but dream.

Later of course I also learned that the President of the USA also had a red phone "hotline" to Russia - which brings up all sorts of tantalising ideas of Meg sorting out the Cold War single handed.... Except of course that the "hotline" was never actually a red phone - despite what the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum tells us! See HERE.

Anyway - back to reality. The phones themselves are pretty standard. The ones most commonly associated with Meg are 1960's "706" types - and while I am no phone expert - they are relatively easy to identify due to the "curved" bits under the handset that don't appear on later 1970's ones. If you wish you can find out more about the 706 HERE.

Meg's red phone was a 706CB - which I presume refers to the blanking plate instead of a dial. Unfortunately I couldn't find a red blanking plate - so sprayed an ivory one instead.

Anyway - my phones now live next to Meg's lamp. They aren't attached to the network but every so often I do pick up the red one and ask for a coffee to be sent through.

It never comes.

Meg "Two Phones" Mortimer phones through for coffee

...Batman answers the call

NOT the Presidential Hotline. Credit HERE




Sitting Room Table (Replica)



REPLICA OF MEG'S SITTING ROOM TABLE

Okay - I've bought the lamp, and I've got the painting - the next item in the list would seem to be Meg's table. I've spoken before about how amazing ebay is for collecting but this was an example of how you need to know what you're looking for - and how you need to be patient...

I spent many months looking for one of these tables - typing "Console Table", "Serpentine Table", "Reproduction Georgian Table" etc into ebay - but to no avail. Then one day a 'suggestion' popped up on my screen and it was this table. I couldn't believe it!

I was hoping for a near match, but this was exactly what I was looking for - even down to the oval-shaped flower pattern on the edges and the shape of the handle!

It didn't matter that I bought it without asking my wife - or the fact that I don't really have anywhere to put it - this was an essential purchase!

Fortunately I had a trick up my sleeve when confessing to the-other-half that I'd bought it. I waited until she had a friend round then casually dropped it into the conversation. "Oh - I've bought a table...". Of course, by the time her friend had gone, the news had sunk in and I was (relatively) safe. For now.

The seller agreed to a deal regarding postage (it was too far to go and collect it!) and soon the table was on its way to me - but the agony of the postal service!!!!....

It arrived in the local delivery office at 23:58 on Friday night. I know because the tracking app told me. It sat there all through Saturday and Sunday before arriving at my house on Monday - but what a fabulous thing it is!

It is actually much smaller that it would appear on TV - 76cm high and only 91cm wide for anyone interested - Meg's sitting room was probably much smaller than we think!

I still don't have anywhere to put it - but am considering moving a radiator and blocking up some patio doors in order to accommodate it. We shall see. Anyway - it hasn't stopped me recreating Meg's sitting room when my wife goes out!
First surviving appearance of the table - Episode 496 (1966)

Meg and Timothy - with table (1970's)
Last appearance of the table (1982)


Sitting Room recreation working well (as long as my wife doesn't find out)


Thursday, 12 January 2017

MEG'S WALL LIGHTS - A STRANGE COINCIDENCE!


BRASS WALL SCONCES USED IN MEG'S SITTING ROOM. REPLICAS AND REAL ONES!


Now where do I start with this? A few weeks ago I bought a replica of Meg’s mirror from the 1960’s episodes. A friend suggested that I should just go the whole-hog and recreate the entire sitting room. Well that would be virtually impossible, since I don’t have a spare room in the house, but it did get me thinking about trying to acquire a few more replica pieces – and so I turned to ebay. I had in mind the idea to recreate the area around the bureau – which would require some Rococo wall sconces. (That’s “light fittings” to you and me)

Meg's Sitting Room in 1966 (Episode 497)
Photograph from the ebay listing
It still amazes me that you can search for practically anything online. There are literally hundreds of wall sconces available on ebay – all similar to Meg’s but not quite right for one reason and another - so I was somewhat astounded to find some that were almost identical to the ones in the 1960’s episodes.

As you can see, apart from the fact that they “face” the opposite direction, these were virtually identical and would be “close enough” to complete the effect that I was looking for.

There was one problem, and that was the price. Other sconces on ebay were advertised at fairly reasonable prices – ranging from £10 to £50 for a pair. These were being advertised for £140 for 4, which was way above what I could afford to spend.

Fortunately the seller was amenable to an offer for just two of the sconces and we struck a deal. I was delighted… I was overjoyed… I’ve got to be honest… I was feeling pretty smug… for all of 24 hours…

You see, no sooner had I received confirmation that the sconces were in the post and on their way to me than I saw something incredible…

An ebay advert for a “similar item” flashed up on my phone.

“Crossroads Motel Memorabilia/brass Metal Sconce Wall Lights/candle Holders”

WHAT?

I mean…. WHAT?

Photograph from the ebay listing

Could it be that the universe was playing tricks on me? I had just bought some replica wall lights – knowing full-well that the original ones were probably lost or forgotten about… only to find that the owner knew exactly what they were – and wanted to sell them!

The listing said the following…

“This pair of wall lights have been in the family for 50 years and have travelled from house to house but never been put up. Now the time has come to sell. They are the original wall lights from the mid sixties used as part of the Crossroads Motel set until the ATV filming was moved from Aston Road Studios Birmingham. A great and well-preserved piece of memorabilia. The numbers on the back refer to an auction of props which happened at the same as the move.”

I had just spent my monthly collection budget on the replicas - But…What choice did I have?

I duly contacted the seller and arranged to buy them – The photo with the listing showed that one of the sconces was indeed the correct way round to match to the screen capture from the 1960’s. 

Megs - Matching Ones - Replicas (wrong way round)

Unfortunately it isn’t possible to see both of them in the episode (497 if you’re interested)

Now… I do have a few issues regarding how authentic these sconces are – and I can’t in all honesty say that I am 100% sure that they are genuine. I knew about the auction as Central TV left Broad Street and the auction of props in 1988 but I had never heard of an auction as ATV left Alpha Studios (around 1968/1969). In fact I would love to know more about this – so if anyone has any details, please do get in touch.

The seller told me that her father had been an electrician at the studios and had picked them up himself in the 1960’s

1979 - Both sconces match - They face the same direction

In later episodes from the ATV Centre in the 1970’s it is possible to see both sconces – and sadly they BOTH face the same direction – which would appear to rule out these being the fittings from the 1988 sale of props. However a close look at the set over time shows that the position of the lights changes regularly on the wall above the bureau as it is removed / half built for each episode. In some episodes they are close together, and in others they are significantly further apart. Who is to say that ATV didn’t own a job-lot of these at one time and the scenery builders used whichever came to hand?

The light fittings move further apart on occasion...
They also get higher and lower at various points!

Certainly, by the time Crossroads was filmed at the Broad ATV Centre, the whole sitting room had been rebuilt – the position of the lamps and the breadth of the wall where Meg’s painting hangs changes quite a lot from episode 497 to the 1970’s. Maybe a complete new Sitting Room set WAS built when the show moved into the new studios? - complete with new light fittings...

Note the changing distance between the alcoves and the changing alcoves themselves as each set is constructed


Anyway – I now have 4 of these things –and clearly two are very much surplus to requirements. Who would have thought it? What are the chances of the “real” ones being put up for sale the day after I have bought some replica ones?

Look out for them on ebay soon!